AS SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES MIDEAST DEBATE, SPEAKERS URGE ACTION BEFORE SITUATION
NEW YORK, 21 August (UN Headquarters) -- "Anyone following the events in Palestine would conclude that the present Israeli Government is indulging in the worst draconian practices ever undertaken by an occupying Power in the present era", the Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference told the Security Council this afternoon as it concluded its resumed debate on the Middle East, having heard statements from 48 speakers.
The Islamic Conference urged the Council to take the necessary measures to protect Palestinians and to compel Israel to end its bloody military campaign against them. That country should also be made to restitute Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and lift restrictions imposed upon entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Muslim and Christian places of worship in the city. "The protection we seek should restrain Israel from continuing its illegal and inhuman practices that target the Palestinian people, and clear the air for resumption of the peace process", he said.
Namibia’s representative noted that despite the current situation, the international community was allowing the carnage to continue in the occupied Palestinian territory. It was even more shocking yesterday to hear some Council members preaching a hands-off approach, while some delegations adopted a neutral position in a completely one-sided conflict.
Arguments, he continued, were being made about violence and resistance by the Palestinians. Palestine was under foreign occupation, and experiencing dire humanitarian conditions, while the Council was paralysed and unwilling to do anything about it. No one could expect the Palestinians to sit idle and wait to be completely dominated or wiped out. The crux of the matter was that the occupation must stop.
Indonesia’s representative said that on two previous occasions the Council had failed to adopt a draft resolution to dispatch a United Nations observer force to the occupied territories to protect the Palestinian people from persecution by the Israeli authorities. Now, months later, with even more Palestinians either dead or wounded, the question that begged to be answered was when the Council would stop the culture of violence brought about by the protracted occupation. Given the current dangerous situation and its potential to fall into a new and more vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed, that body was now duty-bound to take urgent and remedial action.
Among the other issues stressed today were implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338; the principle of land for peace; the recommendations contained in the Mitchell report; strict enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War; and the recent seizure of Orient House and other Palestinian institutions. Speakers once more urged the Council to establish a United Nations observer force for the protection of Palestinian citizens, and a mechanism to monitor implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell report.
The representatives of Turkey, India, Cyprus, Lebanon, Cuba and Mexico also made statements today. The Observer for the League of Arab States addressed the Council.
The representative of Israel and the Permanent Observer for Palestine made closing remarks.
The meeting, which was resumed at 3:20 p.m., was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. It did so following a request by the Islamic Group, contained in a letter dated 15 August from the representatives of Mali and Qatar addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2001/797). The letter states that recent actions by Israel, including its illegal seizure of Orient House and its forceful occupation of other Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem, are severely undermining the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to lend stability to its administration and threatening the peace process in the region.
MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said that on two previous occasions the Security Council had failed to adopt a draft resolution to dispatch a United Nations observer force to the occupied territories to protect the Palestinian people from suppression and persecution at the hands of the Israeli authorities. Now, months later, with even more Palestinians either dead or wounded, the question that begged to be answered was when would the Council assume its responsibility to stop the culture of violence brought about by the protracted occupation? It was inconceivable for Israel to speak of peace and call for an end to the violence by blaming the victim on the one hand while on the other systematically engaging in heinous tactics such as assassinating and killing Palestinians as well as demolishing their homes.
He strongly condemned the indiscriminate use of force by Israel in Palestinian territories, especially in the residential areas of Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah. Given the current dangerous situation, and its potential to fall into an abyss of a new and more vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed, the Council was duty-bound to take urgent and remedial action. That should include calling on Israel to end its occupation of Orient House and other Palestinian institutions, as well as ceasing all acts that were detrimental to the safety and well-being of Palestinians.
He said those who sought to reverse what was irreversible –- the just struggle of the Palestinians for independence and self-determination -- were endangering their own security and making peace more elusive than ever. "This situation should brook no further delay; the Security Council is urged to take resolute action on order to forestall a worsening situation with incalculable consequences", he warned.
ALTAY CENGIZER (Turkey) said that acts of terrorism did not serve the rightful cause of the Palestinian people, adding that he expected the Palestinian administration to take more effective measures against the perpetrators and promoters of such acts, and prevent them. On the other hand, it was obvious that measures taken against such acts should be proportionate. Israel’s closure of Orient House and other Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem did not contribute to easing the tensions. Therefore, he expected that that measure, which had been declared as a temporary one, would be lifted forthwith, and that conditions permitting the continuation of the useful function played by Orient House in attaining peace and peaceful coexistence were created.
The proposals contained in the Mitchell report, he said, mapped out the return to the path of peace. Those proposals needed to be implemented speedily, instead of being countered with unrealistic preconditions. It was high time to realize that procrastination in that regard served the interests of the extremists and prolonged violence. Given the present conditions, the deployment of an impartial observer force to the region was needed more than ever. He hoped that the parties would reach an agreement on such a deployment, which would benefit them both.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said that the escalating situation in the region had had a severe impact on the Middle East peace process and seriously dented the trust and confidence between the parties. Such confidence was a necessary condition for forward movement in terms of the time-frame envisaged in negotiated agreements on interim and final status issues. Apart from the inherent danger of extremist and intransigent thinking gaining the upper hand and radicalizing public opinion, such a situation vitiated the prospects for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. A worsening situation of violence could not be a solution to the complex and sensitive issues at stake. It should not be allowed to undermine the peace process for which the leadership of Palestine and Israel had striven so hard.
Consequently, he continued, it was all the more imperative to eschew violence and exercise utmost restraint in order to create a conducive atmosphere for the resumption of dialogue -- with the requisite will and determination to establish durable peace. He hoped that diplomacy and statesmanship would prevail, and trusted that the wisdom and sagacity displayed in concluding past agreements would be a guide to a just and successful outcome.
AHMAD HAJIHOSSEINI, Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference said that anyone following the events in Palestine would conclude that the present Israeli Government was indulging in the worst draconian practices ever undertaken by an occupying Power in the present era.
He said the recent illegal measures by the Israeli Government –- the seizure and closure of Orient House and other Palestinian institutions –- showed only one thing: that Israel was reneging on guarantees and commitments that it had made. Instead it was snatching away and depriving East Jerusalem of its special status, which served also to protect Palestinian institutions in the city. That unwarranted action was a grave development and a new Israeli provocation of Muslims worldwide who had deep-rooted attachments to Al-Quds Al-Sharif with long-standing religious and spiritual ties.
The Islamic Conference, he said, urged the Council to take the necessary measures to protect Palestinians and to compel Israel to end its bloody military campaign against them. Israel should also be made to restitute Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and to lift restrictions imposed upon entry to Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Muslin and Christian places of worship in the city. "The protection we seek should restrain Israel from continuing its illegal and inhuman practices that target the Palestinian people and clear the air for resumption of the peace process", he said. That process had been deadlocked for years as a result of the procrastination and delaying tactics of successive Israeli Governments.
Outlining a number of "other Israeli practices" whose cumulative effect was to "tear apart the Palestinian territories", he asked by what right all this was taking place. Why was ethnic cleansing in the Balkans considered a crime requiring armies and fleets to stop it, while the world stood idle in the face of ethnic cleansing in Palestine? It was crystal clear that there would be no peace so long as the occupied territories had not been liberated and so long as decisions of international legitimacy continued to be rejected by Israel.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the international community was allowing the carnage to continue in the occupied Palestinian territory. It was even more shocking yesterday to hear some Security Council members preaching a hands-off approach, while some delegations adopted a neutral position in a completely one-sided conflict. That was totally unfair, to say the very least.
Arguments, he continued, were being made about violence and resistance by the Palestinians. The basic fact, however, was that Palestine was under foreign occupation, experiencing dire humanitarian conditions while the Security Council was paralysed and unwilling to do anything about it. No one could therefore expect the Palestinians to sit idle and wait until they were completely dominated or wiped off the face of the earth. The crux of the matter was that the occupation must stop. There could be lasting peace in the Middle East only when the just aspirations of the Palestinian people were restored. Their rights could never be sacrificed because of the occupying Power’s single-minded insistence on security.
He said it was therefore of the utmost importance for the Council to act swiftly and decisively in terms of its Charter responsibility, and to establish a United Nations observer force for the protection of Palestinian citizens. As a starting point, the Council should redeem its credibility by at least adopting the draft resolution presently before it. Although the text was weak, it could -- with the necessary political will -- attract consensus from all Council members and provide the road-map for the resumption of negotiations.
Furthermore, he said, the parties should show political will and courage to de-escalate the situation and ensure that negotiations were resumed, with the implementation of the report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee as a starting point.
DEMETRIS HADJIARGYROU (Cyprus), aligning himself with the European Union’s statement, strongly condemned any and all forms of terrorism, including the recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa which had resulted in many deaths of innocent civilians. At the same time, Cyprus urged Israel to desist from actions that collectively punished the Palestinian population and to avoid a disproportionate response to violence.
He said that both Israel’s closure of Orient House and other institutions in Jerusalem, and its army’s recent incursions in Palestinian territory were particularly disturbing. Cyprus called upon Israel to reverse its decision as soon as possible and to abide by its commitments to the inviolability of those institutions.
Unequivocally condemning Israel’s extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, he also urged the Palestinian Authority to exert every effort to control outbursts of violence. Only in that way would the destructive cycle of hatred subside. Cyprus was particularly concerned at the suffering of women and children and dismayed by the tragic loss of innocent lives.
Reiterating its support for a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), including the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, he strongly called upon both sides to refrain from using armed force against each other and to return instead to the negotiating table as soon as possible. The establishment of peace in the region would not be achieved unless the Palestinian issue –- the core of the Middle East problem -– was tackled with courage, determination and the necessary political will by all people.
SELIM TADMOURY (Lebanon), describing the closure of Orient House as an alarming step backwards for the peace process, said it demonstrated that Israeli leaders were throwing overboard the basis for peace agreements. Their insistence on wiping out Palestinian rights had thrown the region into a spiral of violence.
Not long ago, it had seemed that the prospects for peace were around the corner, he said. The status of Jerusalem and that of Palestinian refugees were the only topics remaining on the agenda. But it had become obvious to any observer that every time Israel came close to peace with the Arabs, it took a step backwards. While the Palestinian people had begun their legitimate struggle by using stones, the Israeli occupying forces had responded with warplanes, tanks and other heavy weaponry, resulting in deaths and other violations of every kind.
He emphasized that Israel must restore Orient House and other institutions in Jerusalem to their rightful owners, noting that they were not just buildings but symbols of Palestinian rights. It would be impossible to restore real peace in the region unless the Palestinians were given their legitimate right to self-determination, he added.
ALI ABBAS, Deputy Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to the United Nations, said that the exacerbation of Palestinian suffering at the hands of the Israeli authorities and Israeli settlers, as well as the broadcasting of the names of those targeted for assassination, clearly indicated a policy of State terror. The cycle of violence that threatened the entire region would never end.
He said the Council’s credibility rested on, among other things, calling upon Israel to abide by its commitments, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention; convening the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention; emphasizing the need to end settlement construction and to remove existing ones, which was one way to de-escalate the situation; adopting resolutions that would facilitate the sending of an international presence to the region for the protection of the Palestinian people; and Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s dispatching of an impartial mediator in the crisis.
The Council must make a clear and unequivocal commitment against Israel’s policy of weakening the Palestinian Authority, he said. It should also adopt a resolution condemning Israel’s occupation of Orient House and other institutions in Jerusalem, which should be restored to their rightful owners. The Council should also take immediate measures to end the state of siege against the Palestinian people and seek assistance for them in the face of Israel’s economic and other measures.
Peace would never be achieved as long as Israel pursued its violent policies, he emphasized. Only by adhering to the principles of land for peace and to resolutions of international legitimacy would the conflict be resolved. The Council's insistence on unanimity had simply resulted in letting Israel have its way under the umbrella provided by the right of veto, he said. The Palestinian people required the Council to act in recognition of their legitimate rights.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said this was the fifth public meeting on the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories since 28 September last year. It was clear that the escalation was due to the continued occupation and non-compliance with agreements that were part of the peace process. It was inevitable that while such a situation persisted the cycle of violence would continue. Despite broad condemnation, however, Israel continued with its extra-judicial killings that violated the norms of international law.
He said the United States had blocked every effort to send an international force to protect Palestinian civilians. The most recent example was in March, when it vetoed a draft proposed by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Caucus in the Security Council. In addition, a total of 23 vetoes had been exercised by the United States on the question of Palestine since 1973, and every indication was that the list would continue to grow. The weapons supplied by the United States to Israel, which were used against Palestinians, were just more evidence that a major Power was supporting the most flagrant and systematic abuse of human rights in the world. There was no justification for not allowing an observer force to be sent to protect Palestinians. The least that the Council could do was to adopt the draft that had been prepared.
ROBERTA LAJOUS (Mexico) deplored the irreparable loss of human life in the Middle East. The peace process begun in Madrid and Oslo had had a promising start, offering a solution to the conflict. The current stagnation was therefore a cause of dismay to a peace-loving country such as hers.
She said Mexico recognized the rights of all States to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, as well as the right of Palestinians to self-determination and independence. She urged both parties along the course of moderation and the resumption of peace negotiations. Her country also joined in the appeal for the monitoring mechanism proposed by the Group of 8 industrialized countries to help the parties implement the recommendations contained in the Mitchell Committee report.
YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said that the principles of Oslo were still in force in spite of the tragic current crisis. Much stronger credibility must be given to the peace process. In light of that objective, the Mitchell report was a useful and necessary tool in returning to the process. The report could be implemented immediately if ways were opened to end violence and terrorism. Israel was prepared for an end to the violence unleashed by the Palestinians under the cover of an intifadah, if they gave way to dialogue. It was up to their leadership to undertake the necessary decisions.
He recalled that yesterday, both permanent and non-permanent Council members had signalled their firm and unequivocal rejection of Palestinian terrorism. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Araft must heed that powerful message. The dialogue proposed by Council members was significant in suggesting that the mixture of terrorism and politics on the part of the Palestinians was no longer appropriate. It had been declared unacceptable by the Mitchell report, and Palestinian terrorism had been rejected by almost the entire Council.
However, Israel was perplexed by some inconsistent and contradictory statements made in the Council, including that of Pakistan. He asked how Pakistan could speak of legitimacy while supporting terrorism and all its effects. In addition, the representative of Iraq had unashamedly accused Israel of using nuclear weapons against the Palestinian people. Libya's representative had also indulged in rhetorical spasms. Those two representatives represented eccentric dictatorships which had advocated the destruction of Israel. Was this the best way to pay tribute to the Palestinian cause? he wondered.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that as usual the representative of Israel had made statements so negative that one had no choice but to respond. The Israeli statement yesterday was even worse than anything he was used to, as it was so full of contradictions. Above all, Mr. Lancry had spoken critically about a fact-finding mission to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Was there a report that was unknown to everyone except the Israeli representative, or was there one that had been handed over to some Member States and not others? Mr. Al-Kidwa wanted to know what was the status of that report, and more specifically how it could have been read out if it was not a general document for all Member States.
He said Mr. Lancry's statement today was no different from yesterday's. He seemed not to have grasped that an overwhelming number of Council Members did support the need for the Council to do something specific and tangible with regard to the question of Palestine, and had also endorsed full implementation of the Mitchell report. That overwhelming majority had also supported the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to help implement the recommendations of the Mitchell report. In addition, the majority had spoken out against oppressive Israeli methods, the closure and seizure of Orient House and other Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, as well as the extrajudicial killings. Most important was that the overwhelming majority of Council members had been against Israeli occupation.
Despite those facts, continued Mr. Al-Kidwa, Israel's representative was saying that the Mitchell report could only be implemented if the violence was stopped. Mr. Lancry's logic was that of one who did not want the report or was not keen on its implementation. His arrogance and disdain in addressing others was also obvious.
He said that Israel's representative had quoted the New York Times. How did Mr. Lancry feel knowing that the same Times had spoken of Israel making Palestinian lives hell? Was it not time for Israel to show some respect for the international community and veer away from actions leading to catastrophe?
He said Israel's defiant position was also expressed in its discussion of the draft resolution, which had been tabled informally. The text in question used language that had been agreed upon by the entire membership of the Council. In fact the issues opposed by one member had even been deleted, after efforts to have that member change its position had failed. The draft, therefore, did not reflect a Palestinian or Arab position. In relation to the resolution, Mr. Al-Kidwa wanted to remind Council members of what they had agreed upon in March. What then was the problem –- that the text used language that took the side of the Palestinians?
In its review of the text, he hoped the Council would take into consideration the positions of Member States and their deep frustration at the lack of activity by the Council on the Middle East issue. He concluded by saying that he had not lost hope, despite the obvious ploys and positions designed to hoodwink the international community. He called on the Council to perform according to the dictates of its Charter responsibilities.
* *** *