19 September 2001


NEW YORK, 18 September (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning elected by acclamation Papa Louis Fall (Senegal) as its Chairman for a one-year term. Mr. Fall replaced Acting Chairman Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla (Cuba).

Mr. Parrilla, speaking before the election, expressed sympathy and offered the deepest condolences on behalf of the Committee to the families and friends of the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. A minute of silence was observed.

Following his election, Mr. Fall said there had been moments of hope and optimism in the Middle East peace process, but today there was a crossroads. The peace process was blocked. Civilians were targeted. Roads were blocked. International action was necessary, and both sides needed to return to the negotiating table. This was the Committee's cardinal mission.

He went on to say that a number of disturbing events had taken place in the past several weeks in the Palestinian occupied territories, including Jerusalem. In response to the escalation of tensions on the ground, the Security Council had held a debate on 20 and 21 August at which the Acting Chair had put forward the Committee’s position on those events.

He added that on 22 August, the Acting Chair had drafted a letter to the Secretary-General expressing the Committee’s concern over the increased level of violence in the Palestinian occupied territories, particularly the dangerous situation in East Jerusalem and areas under full Palestinian control (document A/ES-10/106-S/2001/819).

Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer for Palestine, welcomed the Chairman on behalf of the Palestinian people and leadership. He expressed full confidence that the Committee would continue to strive to achieve Palestinian rights and establish a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

He then briefed the Committee on the current situation in the region. He noted that while the Security Council’s August debate had prompted serious concern over the situation, as well as harsh criticism of Israeli actions in the Palestinian occupied territories, the discussions had, unfortunately, not led to any specific action.

Expressing deep concern and unequivocal condemnation of the heinous terrorist acts that took place last week in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, he supported all international efforts, particularly within the United Nations, to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent the recurrence of such acts. He also supported proposed joint efforts to combat international terrorism.

Despite expressions of international solidarity, Israel had taken advantage of the shift in international attention to increase its aggressive military action. Since last week, the occupying forces had killed 24 Palestinian citizens, tanks had destroyed many structures, and ground forces had caused widespread panic. What was worse, those actions had caused high-level meetings between the two sides to be cancelled.

He added, however, that reports over the last few days indicated that there might be a change in Israel’s position – perhaps, even a cessation of all military actions. While he did not want to appear overly optimistic about those reports, it was his hope that they represented a fresh vision, not only globally, but with respect to specific problems in the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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

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