Press Releases

    GA/PAL/985
     22 June 2005

    Middle East Situation Remains Critical, Special Committee on Palestinian Rights Told

    Observer of Palestine Says Israeli Government Continued with Illegal Settlement Activities, Wall Construction in Violation of International Law

    NEW YORK, 21 June (UN Headquarters) -- While it appeared that the situation in the Middle East was improving and extensive effort was being made by the international community to bring the Israelis and Palestinians closer to a solution, the Palestinian Observer Mission said today that the situation remained critical at all levels.

    Updating the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People today, Somaia S. Barghouti, Chargée d’Affaires of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, said that Israel, the occupying Power, had continuously pursued practices in violation of the rules of international law and United Nations resolutions. Those practices aimed at the acquisition of more territory by force and the annexation of more land, causing the Palestinian people tremendous suffering, humiliation and hardship.

    She said that the Israeli Government had continued with its illegal settlement activities and construction of the wall in grave violation of international humanitarian law. Israel’s continuing colonization of Palestinian land would jeopardize every effort towards peace. The announcement in May by the Israeli Government of its expansionist plans to extend the wall around the Maalen Adumim settlement -- the largest illegal Israeli settlement located east of Jerusalem in the Occupied Palestinian Territory -- would lead to the confiscation and the de facto annexation of even more Palestinian land.

    That so-called “Maalen Adumim loop” plan would isolate Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and gravely exacerbate the Palestinian civilians’ freedom of movement to and from East Jerusalem, she continued. Upon completion of the plan, the occupying Power would begin construction of another section of the wall, this time connecting the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion to Jerusalem from the south. Clearly, the occupying Power intended to establish a separate apartheid-like road to allow Palestinians to access the West Bank with a small entrance to Jerusalem only open to Israeli motorists travelling from the Jordan Valley.

    Today, Palestinian President Abbas was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to discuss ways to advance the peace process and to improve the situation on the ground, she said. The Gaza withdrawal would top the agenda, but other issues, such as the Road Map obligations, prisoners and refugees, would also be discussed. The Palestinian side hoped the meeting would produce a tangible and fruitful outcome, bringing the parties closer to the establishment of an independent, sovereign and democratic State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. No Palestinian was prepared to accept anything less than that.

    Chairing today’s meeting was Committee Vice-Chair Ravan A. G. Farhâdi (Afghanistan), who informed the Committee that the Government of Romania had informed the Committee Chairman, in a letter dated 31 May 2005, that it wished to discontinue its Committee membership. In his reply, the Chairman expressed his appreciation for Romania’s many years of Committee membership.

    In other business today, the Committee approved the provisional programme for the upcoming United Nations International Conference on Civil Society in Support of Middle East Peace, to be held from 12 to 13 July at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris.

    Mr. Farhâdi explained that, while the civil society conference had taken place for the past three years at United Nations Headquarters in September, this year the Bureau had decided to follow a recommendation of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Network to hold the conference in a European capital, thereby giving more organizations from Europe and the Middle East a chance to participate. Preparations for the conference were going well. He encouraged all members and observers to participate in the event, which would focus on civil society’s role in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

    Supporting the proposal to convene the conference in Paris, Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) said that venue would strengthen international solidarity with the just struggle of the Palestinian people. The programme would serve as an additional step in realizing the Committee’s aspirations to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    He said he agreed that the Palestinian people were going through a critical stage in their history. Despite everything being done by the Palestinian Authority, Israel continued to build settlements and the separation wall, defying international legitimacy and implementing projects which were far from leading to a comprehensive solution for the region’s problems. His delegation supported the Committee’s initiatives and would support the Chairman’s efforts in that regard.

    The Palestinian Rights Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced in The Journal.

    Summary of Statement by Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine

    Updating the Committee on developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the United Nations, SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, Chargée d’Affaires of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, said that Israel, the occupying Power, had continuously pursued practices in violation of the rules of international law and United Nations resolutions, which had aimed at the acquisition of more territory by force and the annexation of more land, causing the Palestinian people tremendous suffering, humiliation and hardship.

    While it appeared that the situation was improving and extensive effort was being exerted by the international community to bring the parties closer to a solution, she regretfully informed Committee members that the situation had remained critical at all levels. The Palestinian Authority had been exerting the utmost efforts to ensure calm and order and to revive the peace process. Unfortunately, the Israeli side had only continued with its unilateral measures, which continued to have detrimental effects on the Palestinian people and the future of the Palestinian State. The latest developments had been conveyed in a letter to the Secretary-General and Presidents of the Security Council and General Assembly. She would highlight some of the issues requiring urgent consideration.

    Issues of settlements and the wall were of great concern to her delegation, she said. The Israeli Government had continued with its illegal settlement activities and construction of the wall in grave violation of international humanitarian law and in disregard for the international community’s concern and condemnation. Israeli actions were the main obstacle to the realization of peace and the establishment of a viable and continuous Palestinian State. It was the Israeli continuation of colonization of Palestinian land that would jeopardize every effort to achieve peace in the Middle East. She noted the most recent announcement by the Israeli Government on 17 May of its intention to continue with its expansionist plans to extend its wall around the Maalen Adumim settlement -- the largest illegal Israeli settlement located east of Jerusalem in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

    If implemented, the so-called “Maalen Adumim loop” plan, which was approved by the Israeli Ministerial Council in February, would lead to the confiscation and the de facto annexation of even more Palestinian land. That would also separate and isolate Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and would gravely exacerbate the freedom of movement of Palestinian civilians to and from East Jerusalem. Upon completion of the plan, the occupying Power would begin construction of another section of its expansionist wall, this time connecting the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion to Jerusalem from the south. The occupying Power intended to establish a separate apartheid-like road to allow Palestinians to access the West Bank with a small entrance to Jerusalem only open to Israeli motorists travelling from the Jordan Valley.

    In that regard, she said that the Israeli authorities had ignored the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the wall. The occupying Power had taken increased measures in complete contradiction to the opinion -- the most recent concerning the Qalandiya checkpoint, which had been erected in the centre of the West Bank in a densely populated Palestinian civilian area parallel to the route along which the wall was being carved. It was being reported that Israel plans to transform the Qalandiya checkpoint into a border cross, similar to an international gateway or crossing point, for tens of thousands of Palestinians who crossed it daily. Israel had accelerated work in an area a few metres east of the Qalandiya checkpoint to prepare for the construction of a compound or installation that would separate the northern and southern parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem and its surrounding towns and villages from the Ramallah area. The impact on Jerusalem and its surrounding area would be grave, further altering the demographic compositions and destroying the socio-economic conditions and the very fabric of the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians.

    Recalling the General Assembly’s adoption of resolution ES-10/15 of 20 July 2004, she said that had not been implemented, despite the lapse of nearly one year. In addition, the request to the Secretary-General to establish a register of damage caused to all natural or legal persons concerned in connection with the wall in paragraphs 152 and 153 of the advisory opinion had yet to be completed. She urged the Secretary-General to speed up the process of establishing such a registry. She also urged the international community to exert maximum efforts to guarantee the registry’s establishment as soon as possible. She had been informed that a report would be submitted to the General Assembly by the end of this month concerning respect by Israel for the Geneva Conventions. She was confident that it would reflect the grave situation relating to international law violations by the occupying Power against the civilian Palestinian population and their land.

    Her delegation, following examination of the upcoming report, would decide on further action and keep the Committee informed in that regard. Despite numerous meetings on both sides to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal, the Israeli Government, according to Palestinian sources, continued to employ delaying tactics and had yet to present the Palestinian side with a clear plan. Such cooperation was a prerequisite for a peaceful and complete withdrawal from Gaza, thereby giving the Palestinian Authority full control of all aspects relating to Gaza in that regard. The visit of Palestinian leaders to Washington, D.C., on 26 May had resulted in President Bush’s reaffirmation of the United States’ commitment to the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian State. The statement had contained some very important elements, including the call that any change in the 1949 armistice agreement required mutual agreement. For the Palestinian side, that aspect of the statement had been very importance since the two-State solution could only be achieved on that basis. Mr. Bush had also urged the Israeli side not to undertake any action in contravention of its Road Map obligations.

    Today, President Abbas was meeting with Prime Minister Sharon to discuss ways to advance the peace process and to improve the situation on the ground, she said. The Gaza withdrawal would top the agenda, but other issues, such as the Road Map obligations, prisoners and refugees, would also be discussed. The Palestinian side hoped the meeting would produce a tangible and fruitful outcome, bringing the parties closer to the establishment of an independent, sovereign and democratic State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. As her Foreign Minister had indicated in his meeting with United States Secretary of State, the Palestinian side would not accept any proposal to have a temporary State with temporary borders since that was not in compliance with international understandings. Following the complete withdrawal from Gaza, discussions should take place directly on settlements and all other issues. Her side insisted that East Jerusalem should be its capital since no Palestinian would accept less than that.

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