Press Releases

    28 February 2002

    In Resumed Debate on Middle East, Security Council Hears Reiterated Calls for Implementation of Mitchell Recommendations

    Saudi Arabian Representatives Says No Security Possible Without Resolution of Fundamental Problem - Israeli Occupation of Arab Lands

    NEW YORK, 27 February (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this evening heard calls for an urgent return to negotiations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as the Council concluded its two-day debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    During the resumption of the meeting, which was suspended on Tuesday at 9:45 p.m., delegates, echoing a statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Council last week, said the two parties could not resolve the conflict on their own without third-party help. They urged immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee Report and the Tenet security plan. They also recognized the right of the Palestinians to an independent, viable and democratic State and the right of Israelis to live within secure and internationally secure borders.

    An initiative of the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia was frequently referred to during the debate. The representative of Saudi Arabia observed that the proposal had been widely welcomed. He said the two parties needed external assistance to stop the violence that was spinning out of control, and to bring them back to the negotiating table. The fundamental problem, he said, was the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Only the end of that occupation, the creation of a viable Palestinian State, and Israeli withdrawal from the Shaba'a Farms and the Syrian Golan would bring about relations founded on international laws in the Middle East.

    The representative of Malaysia said the tragic situation in Palestine demanded the immediate intervention of the United Nations. A United Nations mission must be sent to the region to monitor the situation.

    India's representative said the rapid expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories was undermining both the mutual confidence and the credibility of the peace process. The Mitchell Report and the Tenet plan were the means for moving from the current situation to the negotiating table. There, the modalities of ending the Israeli occupation and of resolving final status issues must occur, since a just and comprehensive peace was a vital mutual interest.

    The Council also heard tonight from the representatives of Australia, Chile, Ukraine, Iran, Japan, Iraq, Argentina, Turkey, Yemen and the Sudan.

    The meeting resumed at 6:16 p.m. and adjourned at 8:05 p.m.


    The Security Council this evening resumed its meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, which was suspended yesterday at 9:45 p.m. Yesterday, it heard from 30 speakers on the subject. (For coverage of that meeting, see Press Release SC/7310 of 26 February.)


    HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said it was high time for the Council to take decisive action to immediately ease the tension in the Middle East, de-escalate and end the violence, restore calm and provide a basis for constructive dialogue between the conflicting parties, which remained the only viable approach towards a lasting solution to the problem. He rejected the argument advanced by some quarters that the United Nations, and the Council in particular, had no role whatsoever in intervening on that issue. Because of that, the Council had been effectively sidelined over the years and prevented from playing a legitimate role in the search for peace in the Middle East.

    He said that it was not enough for the Council to consider the situation and then fail to take decisive action, in the hope and on the assumption that it was for the parties themselves to resolve their conflict. Clearly, as the tragic events had shown, that hope was misplaced and the assumption fallacious. To continue with that approach would be to continue to ignore the situation, with all the consequent risks to international peace and security. Continued non-action by the Council was tantamount to appeasing the occupying Power. That would only deepen the sense of frustration and despair of the Palestinian people and further aggravate the situation. Moreover, it would undermine the Council's credibility and prestige.

    He strongly rejected the approach of apportioning blame and placing demands solely upon President Arafat while ignoring, and even condoning, the provocative policies of Prime Minister Sharon. He condemned all forms of violence, including that perpetrated by the military and other security forces of the occupying Power, as well as the continued illegal expansion of Jewish settlement activities in the occupied territories, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif. The United Nations could intervene effectively by dispatching a mission to monitor the situation, ease the tension and maintain peace and security on the ground. The world would surely be watching whether, in the face of that grim situation on the ground, the Council was able to muster the necessary political will to do what needed to be done -- or, once again, fail to rise to the challenge.

    JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said there was no military solution to the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, just as there was no real alternative to a negotiated settlement. His country remained committed to a negotiated settlement, based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and on the principle of land for peace. It was strongly committed to the territorial integrity of Israel, the right of the people of Israel to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries, free from threats or acts of force. Australia would continue to support international efforts to achieve peace and security, and was encouraged by the statements from Saudi Arabia in that regard.

    He said, although the present situation was difficult, the recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet plan were vital and necessary steps to end the current violence, and his Government urged the unconditional resumption of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He called on both sides to exert full and complete efforts to implement all the recommendations of the Mitchell Report.

    JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said the main problems to be resolved were the illegal occupation of territory, the need to put an early end to acts of violence and terror, and the need to achieve an early solution to the economic hardships of the Palestinian people. The political, security and economic issues were interrelated, as the Secretary-General had said. He urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to bring about the immediate cessation of all acts of violence and to return as soon as possible to peace negotiations. He noted that the Mitchell and Tenet plans had not been followed up by either party.

    He said the situation today required urgent measures that went beyond the issue of how to implement the Tenet or Mitchell plans. There was now a dire need for the parties to restore the minimum conditions of mutual respect needed to ensure that the negotiations be held under equal conditions. He requested the Council to make every effort to promote such a rapprochement. He also appealed to the parties to abandon rigid positions that did nothing to help place the dialogue above violence, and to refrain from taking unilateral steps that might affect the course of the dialogue.

    VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the Palestinians and Israelis must move back to the negotiating table. There was no alternative to that. The current dangerous situation required the two sides to implement a number of steps to restore calm and resume the dialogue. Ukraine called upon the Palestinian leadership to take urgent and decisive action to cease violence and stop the activities of terrorist networks. At the same time, Ukraine condemned the excessive use of force and reoccupation of the Palestinian-controlled territories. The practice of extrajudicial killings, as well as devastating raids into Palestinian-controlled territory and attacks on heavily populated areas, must stop immediately. Any settlement activities of Israel on the Palestinian territories, as well as closures and economic sanctions against Palestinians, should also be terminated.

    Ukraine strongly believed that the Palestinian Authority and its elected Chairman, Yasser Arafat, were the legitimate partners for Israel to resume negotiations to stop the violence and to build peace. Any attempts to weaken them could only undermine the prospects for peace. The parties must commit themselves to the renewal of the peace process, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the principle of land for peace, as well as other principles laid down at the Madrid Conference and in the Oslo agreements. Lasting peace could only be achieved through the establishment of a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian State, an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories, and the reaffirmation and full recognition of the irrevocable right of Israel to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.

    KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the cycle of violence that had engulfed the Middle East since September 2000 had damaged peace and stability. Among other tragic effects, it had severely dented the trust and confidence between parties. The longer the violence continued, the greater the danger that extremist and radical tendencies would be strengthened. It was essential to exercise the utmost restraint, eschew all violence and shun all acts destabilizing the peace process.

    He said provocations and excessive use of force were exacerbating the unfortunate situation in the occupied territory. Restoring calm and peace was urgent. Comprehensive peace for the region must be based on the relevant Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace. It must respect the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to a homeland and the right of all States, including Israel and Palestine, to exist in peace within secure and internationally recognized boundaries.

    The rapid expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the establishment of new ones since the signing of the Oslo accords were undermining both mutual confidence and the credibility of the peace process, he continued. "We trust that Israel will respect the overwhelming sentiment of the international community for a freeze on all settlement activity", he added. The Mitchell Report and the Tenet plan were the means for moving from the current situation to the negotiating table. There, the modalities of ending the Israeli occupation and of resolving final status issues must occur, since a just and comprehensive peace was a vital mutual interest.

    MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) said that excessive and disproportionate measures adopted by the Israeli army, in full disregard for any established principles of international law and humane standards, continued to take a heavy toll on Palestinian civilians. The resort by the Israelis to state-of-art weapons, such as F-16 warplanes, Apache helicopter gunship and heavy tanks, to target Palestinian installations and invade civilian areas in the occupied territories had outraged the international community, in general, and the Islamic world, in particular. Suffocating closures and the siege imposed on Palestinian people and officials were deepening the crisis.

    He said that Israeli "repressive acts" lay at the origin of each new cycle of violence. Such acts had frustrated efforts by Western envoys and repressed positive initiatives by some Western countries to provide new opportunities for addressing the flagrant injustices against the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, however, Israel, through a massive disinformation campaign, had sought to exacerbate tension in the region in an attempt to cover up its campaign of aggression against the Palestinian people and undermine international public support for the Palestinians' favour. The international community and the United Nations must step in immediately to stop the Israeli armed forces' brutal campaign against civilians.

    A complete end to foreign occupation and the full restoration of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people should be the main pillars of any solution. The Council, in particular, was expected to act appropriately, with a view to putting an end to the violations by the occupying Power and bringing those responsible to justice. Regrettably, however, the exercise or threat of exercise of veto had so far prevented the Council from discharging its constitutional responsibility in that crucial issue, thus provoking profound disappointment. Further, its inaction had emboldened Israel to defy the wish of the international community. It should establish an international force to protect defenceless Palestinian civilians. Such action, taken earlier, would have forestalled more bloodshed.

    MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) said his Government urged the Palestinian Authority, led by Chairman Arafat, to make the utmost efforts to suppress extremists. It also urged the Government of Israel to refrain from actions, such as attacks against facilities of the Palestinian Authority, which did not contribute to calming down the situation, and to make constructive efforts, including a genuine dialogue with the Palestinian Authority. It was imperative for the international community to work with the parties in a concerted manner towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict. He welcomed the fact that initiatives had recently been proposed, in particular, by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

    He said that, in addition to efforts for the settlement of the conflict, the international community had an important responsibility to alleviate the economic and social difficulties confronting the Palestinians as a result of the present grave situation. He regretted that the facilities and equipment provided by international donors, including Japan, had been damaged in the Israeli attacks against facilities of the Palestinian Authority.

    In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September, there was a new momentum for cooperation in the international community, which transcended religious, racial and cultural differences. In the question of the Middle East, it was important for both parties to seize that opportunity to redouble their efforts to move forward to the attainment of a durable peace in the region, based on a spirit of conciliation and cooperation.

    MOHAMMED A. ALDOURI (Iraq) said the actions of the Zionist entity had exceeded all bounds and could not be compared with the general acts of individuals. The entity had claimed self-defence to flagrantly violate international humanitarian law and human rights. The practices carried out daily by the Zionist entity against the Palestinian people constituted a flagrant violation of all four Geneva Conventions. He underlined the right of the Palestinian people to resist occupation and to defend themselves and the integrity of their peoples. The Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands had led to the expulsion of Palestinians and many more waiting abroad to return to their homeland. He said major Palestinian cities had become prisons like the old apartheid South Africa.

    He said the United States and the Zionist entity regarded the resistance of the Palestinians against occupation as acts of terrorism. He called for a Council decision to enable the Palestinians to defend themselves and their right to return to their homes. The Security Council must assume its responsibilities and must compel the occupying Power to abide by international humanitarian law.

    LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said the situation in the Middle East was extremely grave and growing worse. Every effort must be made to see to it that the parties restore mutual confidence and return to the negotiating table on the basis of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet plan. The parties, together with the international community, should analyse, in a spirit of flexibility, ideas and proposals that would put the peace process on track, such as the recent proposal by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

    He backed the process set forth in Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Oslo accords, the Madrid peace process and mutual agreements between the parties. He supported the right of the Palestinians to an independent and viable State and the right of the Israelis to live within secure and internationally recognized borders. Until mutual confidence was restored, he said, the Council and the international community must act in concert to help parties return to a dialogue.

    MEHMET UMIT PAMIR (Turkey) aligned himself with the statement made yesterday on behalf of the European Union. He also added his voice to the Secretary-General's remarks, and urged the parties to do everything possible to "get off this hook" of spiralling violence, move away from confrontation, and return to the negotiating table -- or risk a full-fledged war. Both parties should exercise maximum restraint immediately, and the international community should spare no effort to help the parties overcome that vicious cycle. The Mitchell Report and the Tenet understandings embodied the right political instruments and the right vision. Through them, peace could be achieved on the basis of Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the land for peace principle.

    He said that there could be no military solution to the problem. The main responsibility lay with the parties themselves. The arrest of suspected criminals in the assassination of Mr. Zeevi, the Israeli Minister of Tourism, was welcome. Meanwhile, he urged further concrete steps against the perpetrators of other terrorist crimes against the Israeli people. At the same time, restricting Chairman Arafat's movements (and, hence, lessening his room for manoeuvre) was counterproductive. All efforts towards a just and viable Middle East peace were welcome, but a greater American involvement was the key to putting the process back on track and restoring the brighter prospects lost along the way.

    FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said Israel had flouted all international humanitarian laws. It had not been compelled to comply with Security Council resolutions against its policies. He said the proposals of the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia for resolving the conflict had been welcomed worldwide. The initiative was aimed at putting an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands held by it since 1967. Israel had created new pretexts to obstruct attempts to enforce relevant Security Council resolutions. It continued to invoke security needs to continue its occupation, in total disregard for the security of others. Israel had no desire for peace. The international community was aware of Israeli efforts to prevent an end to its occupation of Palestinian lands. The cause of the violence in the region was Israel's failure to end its occupation and its settlement policies.

    The Palestinian violence was the result of Israeli terrorism, as well as many years of frustration, he said. Israel's objective was to expel the Arab peoples from the occupied territories and to expand its presence.

    He said Israel's actions contradicted the principles of the Charter. The present explosive situation should not be allowed to continue. Both parties needed external assistance to stop the violence from spinning out of control. They needed to be brought back to the negotiating table. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict ran the risk of becoming a total war, he said. The fundamental cause was the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. The conflict must be settled in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338; the total withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories; and the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, he said.

    ABDALLA SALEH AL-ASHTAL (Yemen) thanked the President of the Council for his prompt response to Yemen's urgent request for a meeting on the situation in the Middle East. He appreciated the statement of the Secretary-General, which had included important elements and ideas for crucial steps to calm the situation. The Secretary-General had expressed the conviction that the key problems were occupation, security and economic problems, and that those problems would never be solved by military means. The message of the Secretary-General was clear: failure to address all questions would lead to more violence.

    The continuation by the Israeli Government of its bloody military campaign had led to an escalation in the number of victims and injured among the Palestinian people, and damage to infrastructures and structures of the Palestinian Authority. Israel continued an inhuman blockade, preventing Palestinians from moving in freedom. The Government of Israel should shoulder all responsibilities for its violations of human rights and the crimes and terrorism it committed against the Palestinian people, in violation of international humanitarian law.

    He said he had called on the Council many times to protect the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression. However, the Council had not done so. Now that the situation in the Palestinian-occupied territories, including Jerusalem, had gravely deteriorated, it was imperative that the Council intervene to stop the bloodshed. It should adopt a resolution to send international forces or observers to immediately provide protection for the Palestinian people. Rejection of such a resolution would worsen the situation unimaginably. He called on the co-sponsors of the peace process, the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union, to do everything possible to put an end to the serious deterioration of the situation.

    OMER BASHIR MOHAMED MANIS (Sudan) said the situation in the Palestinian territories was dangerous, and the Security Council must assume its responsibilities to safeguard international peace and security. The Council must act to prevent the entire region being plunged into total conflagration because of the Israeli use of excessive force against innocent civilians; its isolation of towns and villages; and its blockade of the residence of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat -- all of which must be condemned. He said the Security Council must act to prevent the criminal plans of the Israeli Prime Minister to establish zones that would totally isolate Palestinian towns. He said that security could not solve the problem as the Secretary-General had said. Security could not be attained as long as Israel continued its occupation of Palestinian lands.

    He said the only way for peace to be achieved was the end of the occupation and the total commitment of Israel to Security Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973, and the creation of a Palestinian State. He hoped the Security Council would use the present momentum to ensure international peace and security and work towards halting the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

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