Press Releases

    22 July 2002

    Need for Israeli Security Guarantees, Permanent Independence for Palestinians Stressed, As Copenhagen Seminar Continues

    Removal of Israeli Settlements, Reform of Palestinian Institutions, Restoration of Palestinian Economy, Infrastructure Also Cited

    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    COPENHAGEN, 18 July -- The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority, Terje Roed-Larsen, today presented the basic framework that must govern peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. These principles include real and permanent guarantees for Israel's security, real and permanent independence for the Palestinians and the removal of Israeli settlements, along with reforms of Palestinian institutions and the restoration of its economy and infrastructure.

    Mr. Roed-Larsen was the keynote speaker in the morning session of the second day of the two-day international media seminar on the question of peace in the Middle East taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark. Organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry of Denmark, the seminar has brought together over 40 present and former policy-makers from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, senior United Nations officials, international experts and media representatives. It was also attended by members of diplomatic corps and international media based in Copenhagen, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.

    Other speakers addressing the morning session were: Samih Al Abed, Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Palestinian Authority; Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestinian Affairs, League of Arab States; Maher Othman, Editor of Al Hayat (London); Mohammad Shtayyeh, Managing Director, Palestine Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction; Ron Pundak, Director-General of the Peres Centre for Peace (Israel); and John Rossant, Europe Editor of Business Week (United States).

    Before introducing the topic of the morning panel, Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, reiterated the condemnation of the Secretary-General of continued suicide bombings at Israeli civilians. Describing such acts as morally repugnant, he said the international community must never condone them.

    Referring to the recently concluded meeting of the diplomatic Quartet held in New York, Mr. Tharoor recalled the two-State solution outlined in United Nations resolutions had been endorsed by international community, including by United States President George Bush. He underscored, however, that there was a huge gap between the vision for peace and the present reality of conflict. In order to bring peace and security in the region, it was essential to address the core issues, including the questions of occupation, violence, including terrorism, and the economic plight of the Palestinians.

    Mr. Al Abed, the opening speaker of the morning session, outlined what he considered to be the essential elements of a viable Palestinian State. These included: territory with internal geographic contiguity, including Jerusalem; sovereign jurisdiction; internal and external security; and the addressing of economic and developmental needs.

    In the medium term, a viable Palestinian State needed to address such issues as establishment and strengthening of an institutional framework for genuine democratic governance, economic development with balanced roles for public and private sectors, improvement in the ability to respond to environmental emergencies and promotion of a social policy that upheld equality and civil rights. However, without a sustained political commitment to peace, nothing could be achieved.

    Mr. Kamal, speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, identified several obstacles to the establishment of a Palestinian State and lasting peace in the region. These included: continued Israeli occupation; Israel's settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory; absence of safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank; and Israeli incursions that caused damage to Palestinian institutions.

    He described the recent proposals by United States President George Bush concerning creation of a Palestinian State as a setback and demanded immediate Israeli withdrawal to positions it held prior to September 2000. He expressed support for renewing meaningful discussions with Israel on securing a just and comprehensive peace, for which the recent proposal by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia could be a viable basis.

    Mr. Othman said the recent statement by the diplomatic Quartet, outlining the vision of a democratic and pluralistic Palestinian State, sounded great, but it was uncertain whether this could be achieved easily. The continued occupation by Israel was a major stumbling block, and the Israeli leadership seemed not ready to give up its hold on seized lands.

    He said the Israeli Government's policy was to ensure a return to the old Israeli civilian rule, which was nothing but military occupation of the Palestinian territories. A future Palestinian State must be a place where the Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return. With no one ready to talk about the right of return of Palestinian refugees now living in camps in various Arab countries, he did not see how this State would ever become a reality. Nowhere in the proposal made by President George Bush did he talk about convening an international peace conference, a necessary component for implementing any peace plan.

    In his keynote address, Mr. Roed-Larsen strongly condemned the fresh acts of suicide bombing in Israel and described them as murder. Despite the unprecedented violence, he said, people on both sides wanted genuine peace. However, the peace process that could have brought the two peoples closer and translate the vision of peace in reality had grounded to a halt. The spirit of peace was being drowned out by violence, recriminations and distrust.

    The second victim of the crisis was political dialogue, he said. "What we see now is a systematic dismantling of the absolutes for peace: trust, dialogue between the parties, the improvement of livelihoods and the sound development of Palestinian institutions." There had been only very limited and partial dialogue between the two parties since April 2001.

    Yet, there were a number of positive signs, the foremost of which was the emergence of an international consensus on how the conflict must end, a consensus, which was also shared by the majority of both peoples, he said. The principles for any sustained peace agreement between the two sides must include the following: the necessity of providing Israel with real and permanent guarantees of its own security; the necessity of providing the Palestinians with real and permanent independence in the form of a viable Palestinian State, and the end of the occupation that began in 1967; and, as part of the process leading to these goals, the necessity of removing Israeli settlements, of reforming the Palestinian institutions and restoring the Palestinian economy and infrastructure.

    He emphasized that the principles for an end of conflict could only be introduced by the international community, which must guarantee any and all agreements. "Israel must know that if it reaches final agreement, the agreement is truly final -- that there will be no more conflict, nor even the threat of conflict; no more claims, no more rejection. The Palestinians must know that provisional

    steps to reach an agreement will actually get there, that their gains will not be reversed, that they can begin to plan for and count on their own future", Mr. Roed-Larsen said.

    Describing the formation of the diplomatic Quartet an innovation, he said that, at the last meeting of the group held in New York, a broad consensus had been reached on the substantive work that needed to be accomplished. Another meeting of the Quartet was being planned for August and September where issues, such as reform, economic and humanitarian assistance, elections, security and political progress, would be discussed. At a subsequent meeting, possibly in September at the time of opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Quartet would report back to the Principals.

    Responding to questions from the audience, Mr. Roed-Larsen said he expected elections to take place in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, in January next year. If President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority was a candidate and was re-elected, he should be accepted as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people. For those elections to take place, Israel would have to take a number of measures, including lifting of curfews and seizure. It was necessary to address a number of issues, including security, economic rejuvenation and humanitarian assistance, in parallel, though their implementation could move step by step. The security issue could not be adequately addressed without addressing the economic question. He stressed that, in any case, the violence and terrorism must end.

    When asked about the possible inclusion of Japan as a member of the Quartet, Mr. Roed-Larsen said there was no plan at the moment to expand the group, though this was not a closed matter.

    Mohammad Shtayyeh, speaking first in the second session, said that, as a result of Israeli reoccupation and prolonged hostilities, the Palestinian economy had been profoundly weakened to the extent that two thirds of Palestinians had no source of income. The Palestinian economy could not meet the basic needs of the Palestinians; food shortages and rampant unemployment were multiplying.

    He said Israel's unhealthy colonial dominance of the Palestinian economy led directly to economic stagnation, and in order to rejuvenate, Israel would have to repeal restrictions on water resources, trade and utilities, and provide freedom of movement, among other things. Israel should also release frozen Palestinian Authority bank accounts. He added that Israeli incursions were responsible for damaging and razing much of the vast construction the West Bank and Gaza had undergone.

    Ron Pundak corroborated Mr. Shtayyeh's position that Israel's dominance of the Palestinian economy had contributed to Palestinian suffering. While Israel must abrogate its conventional economic relationship with the Palestinians, economic cooperation between the Israelis and Palestinians could produce an equitable and symbiotic economic relationship, he stressed.

    Drawing on his experiences, John Rossant said that Israel's economic superiority intimidated other Arab countries and explained, in part, their reticence to engage in trade. He said that Israel must disentangle itself from the Palestinian economy and, in turn, Palestinian officials must end illegitimate business practices in order to stimulate economic growth.

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