Press Releases

    20 June 2002

    Observer for Palestine Briefs Palestinian Rights Committee on Current Situation in Occupied Territories

    Says Israel Appears Set to Wage Campaign to Reverse Oslo Agreements

    NEW YORK, 19 June (UN Headquarters) -- Against a backdrop of renewed violence in Jerusalem today, the Permanent Observer for Palestine expressed frustration that, while the international community held its breath awaiting President Bush's oft-delayed vision for the Middle East peace process, Israel appeared set to wage a serious campaign to reverse the Oslo Agreements of 1993 concerning interim Palestinian self-government.

    As he briefed the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning, Nasser Al-Kidwa said the situation on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, was little changed -- the bloody military campaign being waged against the Palestinian people since September 2000 continued unabated.

    Most significantly, he continued, the Israeli Government had made clear -- particularly by recently announcing that it would begin seizing territories long held by the Palestinian Authority -- its desire to return to its pre-Oslo posture: destroying the Palestinian infrastructure and ensuring that no peaceful settlement could be reached. "Now, Israel's political intentions are clear", he added.

    He said it appeared that the Israeli Government had been trying to institutionalize the results of the military campaign. As Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continued to wreck the lives of the Palestinian people, his occupying forces sought to re-establish the civil administration of the Israeli military government, contravening agreements made at Oslo.

    Mr. Al-Kidwa said the position of the Palestinian people was equally clear: Mr. Sharon had been involved in war crimes and massacres. He was a man who had to be considered an enemy of peace. He had to be stopped by the international community if the tragic situation on the ground was to end and both sides were to return to the negotiating table.

    With that in mind, he expressed hope that the highly anticipated report of the Secretary-General on the tragic events in the Jenin refugee camp and other Palestinian cities would shed light on the realities on the ground. He expected the report would "shock" the international community with clear, concise evidence of the criminal atrocities that were being committed by the Israeli Government, with the aim of ensuring that such events never occurred again.

    While there was no doubt that war crimes had been committed, he continued, the report would hopefully emphasize the scope of those killings in order to help determine responsibility under international human rights law. He added that the tenth resumed emergency session of the General Assembly was expected to reconvene to consider the report.

    He also hoped the report would finally spur the Security Council to action, particularly ensuring the full and immediate implementation of resolutions 1402 and 1403 and other relevant resolutions. The Council, apparently stalled because the United States clearly opposed taking any immediate action, must remain engaged -- it could not give up its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, he said.

    The situation in the Council was reflective of the inertia of the wider international community as peace negotiations were on hold, while everyone awaited a clarification of the United States Middle East policy. The Bush Administration had been expected to finally announce the American position sometime this week, but that now appeared unlikely. While he would not speculate on President Bush's decision, Mr. Al-Kidwa said the Palestinian position was clear: the only key to real progress would be the identification of a concrete final settlement.

    He said the Palestinian people needed to know and understand the "end game". If that were the case, he believed that agreement on other issues, including possible mechanisms and procedures for future negotiations -- an international peace conference -- would then be possible. Without clarity on the final outcome, doubts would remain, and he feared that any interim measures would lead to further procrastination by the Israeli side and similar difficulties that had plagued the Oslo agreements.

    Opening the meeting, Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, informed members of the activities that had taken place since the Committee's last meeting on 15 May 2002, which included the adoption of a statement on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

    Also, on 13 May, in response to the extremely grave and deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Security Council met at the request of the Arab Group to consider an agenda item entitled "The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question". He participated in those deliberations and made a statement at its 4552nd meeting as Chairman of the Committee.

    Also this morning, the Committee adopted the provisional agenda, included in a working paper, for both the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to be held from 24 to 25 June, and the United Nations Workshop of African NGOs on the Question of Palestine, on 26 June 2002. Those events would be held in Rabat, Morocco.

    According to the working paper, the meeting would consist of three plenary sessions on the impact of the Israeli military offensive in the occupied Palestinian territory; challenges to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine; and international efforts at salvaging peace in the Middle East.

    The Committee will meet again at a time to be announced.

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