Press Releases

    22 April 2002


    NEW YORK, 19 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Secretary-General's proposal for the establishment of a multinational force for the Middle East was the major focus of discussion during this morning's resumed Security Council meeting on the situation in that region, including the question of Palestine.

    Other key topics discussed this morning were the non-implementation of recent Council resolutions demanding an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, and the need for an independent investigation into an alleged massacre there.

    As speakers demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the occupied territories and an end to Palestinian suicide attacks, Council President Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation) welcomed the Secretary-General's proposal of a multinational force, but emphasized the importance of developing common approaches in that regard. Speaking in his national capacity, he added that the initiative would require discussion in the Council.

    He said Council resolutions 1397 (2002), 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002), the ministerial Madrid statement of the Quartet of special envoys (United Nations, United States, Russian Federation and European Union), and the peace initiative of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah contained all the components for a lasting settlement to the Middle East conflict.

    The representative of the United States said his country's Secretary of State had found broad support among Israelis, Palestinians, Arab States and the Quartet for a comprehensive strategy comprising three key elements: security and freedom from terror and violence for both Israelis and Palestinians; accelerated negotiations to revive hope and lead to a political settlement; and economic and humanitarian assistance to alleviate the desperate plight of the Palestinian people.

    France's representative expressed concern about the precarious plight of the people inside the Church of the Nativity and the Jenin refugee camp and emphasized that Israel must respect international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention with regard to civilians and foreign nationals, as well as on the treatment of detainees. It must provide access to medical care and assistance to the Palestinian civilian population. It was indispensable to establish the full and objective truth about what had happened in Jenin through an independent inquiry, he added.

    Syria's representative said Israel had attempted to ride the wave of anti-terrorism to perpetrate war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The United Nations had failed to respond to Israel's intentional destruction of medical equipment belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as reported by its Director-General. It had also targeted UNRWA ambulances. But that must not lead to paralysis of the Council, he said.

    The representative of the United Kingdom said the Palestinian leadership had not been convincing in its efforts to end terrorist attacks. However, automatic recourse to violence was entrenching itself in the psychology of the two parties to the conflict. Both sides bore the responsibility for returning to the

    peace process, he stressed. The Palestinians were entitled to a national homeland and Israel was entitled to live in security.

    Also speaking this morning were the representatives of China, Guinea, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Mauritius, Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, Singapore and Norway.

    The representative of Israel and the Observer for Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    Today's meeting began at 10:45 a.m. and adjourned at 1:15 p.m.


    The Security Council met this morning to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, which was convened yesterday afternoon at the request of the representative of Tunisia, Chairman of the Arab Group, as expressed in his letter to the Council's President dated 17 April (document S/2002/431).

    Yesterday, before the meeting was suspended at 7:50 p.m., the Council heard from 28 Member States who do not have a seat in the Council, as well as the Permanent Observer for Palestine. This morning, Council members are expected to speak (for yesterday's debate, see Press Release SC/7367 of 18 April).


    WANG YINGFAN (China) said that in order to halt the escalation of the conflict, the international community had made active efforts by way of Security Council resolutions and the statement of the Quartet of special envoys. In addition, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell had visited the region, and many countries had called on the two parties to implement the Council resolutions. However, the Israeli army had refused to withdraw from the occupied territory and had intensified its siege around the President of the Palestinian Authority and the Church of the Nativity.

    He said the escalation of violence had created an extremely grave humanitarian situation, because the victims of suicide bombings included Israelis and Palestinians, as well as Chinese nationals, while the brutal attacks by the Israeli army continued to create a human tragedy. China favoured humanitarian rescue efforts following the events that had occurred in Jenin and called on both parties to facilitate the investigation of that situation by the group appointed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    The engagement of a third party was necessary to end the cycle of violence, he said. China appreciated and supported the Secretary-General’s efforts and his proposed deployment of a multinational force, and would seriously study the proposal. It was hoped that both parties, as well as the international community, would respond positively to the proposal and establish a third-party mechanism to facilitate the implementation of resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1397 (2002).

    FRANÇOIS LONSENY FALL (Guinea) said, despite the strong resolutions adopted by the Council and many efforts to mediate, the situation in the Middle East had deteriorated. The international community was a hopeless witness to a dangerous escalation. The longer Israeli defence forces persisted in occupation, the brighter the fires would burn with an increase of suicide attacks, which were immoral and detrimental to a search for a solution.

    During his briefing yesterday, the Secretary-General had shared his global vision to confront the dangerous situation and to find a definite solution, he continued. Guinea supported the proposal to deploy a multinational force within the framework of security in the region. If that deployment had been accepted sooner, he said, it might have prevented the current cycle of violence. In order to deploy such a multinational force, cooperation from both sides was necessary to improve chances for an immediate ceasefire.

    Efforts to calm the crisis must go along with action on the political front. The difficult task now was to bring both parties to renounce their present policies, which were destructive. The parties must return to negotiations. He hoped that efforts undertaken by the various mediators would not remain in vain. The Israeli and Palestinian people truly needed peace.

    STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), appealing for an immediate ceasefire, said the humanitarian situation was a matter of the greatest concern. Bulgaria completely endorsed the Secretary-General’s concern expressed yesterday about the situation in Jenin. It has urgently necessary that humanitarian organizations have access to Jenin in order to save lives.

    Reiterating the absolute necessity of Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories and of an end to the isolation of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, he noted the beginnings of a withdrawal, which could largely be ascribed to the commitment of the United States and other Quartet members, and to the efforts of Secretary of State Powell.

    He stressed that Israel’s destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure made no contribution whatsoever to resolving the conflict and hindered the efforts of moderate elements to control terrorist organizations. Bulgaria also expected the Palestinian Authority to commit itself fully to ending acts of terrorism against Israel, in order to help in the dismantling of terrorist networks. Bulgaria appealed to all countries in the region to make an effort to prevent such terrorist acts, which could seriously damage the international community’s efforts to resolve the conflict.

    Noting the unanimity of views about what should be done, he said one of the most positive elements was the continuing quest for a resolution to the conflict, particularly on the part of the United States. In addition, Bulgaria had played an active part in drafting resolutions 1397 (2002) and 1402 (2002), which provided an excellent basis for resolving the conflict. However, it was not the right time to vote on yet another resolution, because practically everything had already been said. The important thing was implementation of the existing resolutions.

    MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said the Palestinian question had lasted throughout the twentieth century without any solution. The Council resolutions, among them, 1397 (2002), were a basis for the political settlement and the expression of the principle of land for peace. What was needed now was the political will of the parties. Because the political will continued to be wanting, the spiral of violence in the Middle East was rising, and there was a risk that discouragement would win the day.

    He said great hopes had been raised by recent initiatives and decisions designed to put an end to violence, such as resolution 1397 (2002) with a vision of two States living side by side within secure and recognized borders, Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace initiative, and other initiatives. Yesterday, the Secretary-General had presented a proposal for a multinational force, not to be a United Nations force, but authorized by the Council under Chapter VII. It would have a quadruple objective to: stop the cycle of violence; create the conditions for resumption of normal life in the Palestinian territories; establish institutions of Palestinian Authority; and resume negotiations to arrive at a political settlement.

    He believed the force could be deployed without awaiting the full support of the parties, but, in order to be successful, the multinational force would have to have the full support of all parties. The proposal was an indispensable contribution to finding a way of restoring confidence between Israelis and Palestinians. The resumption of negotiations could only come about through such mutual confidence, and only negotiations could lead to peace. Any other option the parties might resort to could only lead to an apocalyptic outcome, and such an outcome would not make any distinction between winners and losers. It was an emergency and the credibility of the Council was at stake. "Let us take a decision to help the Council emerge from the ‘deafening silence’ of its resolutions", he said.

    JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), endorsing the European Union statement, said the intolerable humanitarian situation, where civilians were paying for the murderous blockade with their lives, must urgently come to an end. The Security Council had set a very clear framework for the parties to emerge from the treadmill, in the various resolutions and presidential statement, as well as the endorsement given to the Madrid Quartet. They must be implemented immediately and in their entirety.

    He said that, although Israel had withdrawn from Jenin, it must also withdraw immediately from other Palestinian towns and villages, lift the siege of the Church of the Nativity, and give full freedom of movement to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. On the other hand, Mr. Arafat must fulfil his obligation to end terrorist attacks against civilians, which were morally and politically unacceptable. France welcomed his statement on Saturday condemning such attacks, particularly the latest one occurring in Jerusalem.

    There was no other way to resolve the conflict, but through the conclusion of a ceasefire and the immediate resumption of political negotiations for a just settlement, he said. That process must lead to two States living within safe and recognized frontiers, and it was an illusion to think that such a settlement could be concluded without Mr. Arafat.

    Expressing concern about the precarious plight of the people inside the Church of the Nativity and the Jenin refugee camp, he said Israel must take all necessary measures under international humanitarian law under the Geneva Convention with regard to civilians and foreign nationals, as well as to the treatment of detainees. It must give access to medical care and assistance to the Palestinian civilian population. It was indispensable to establish the full and objective truth about what had happened in Jenin through an independent inquiry.

    He said the time had also come to get the two parties out of their murderous confrontation. France fully supported the Secretary-General’s ambitious and courageous proposal for the establishment of a multinational force to end the violence, monitor a ceasefire and guarantee access without impediment for humanitarian assistance and economic aid. The force would also oversee the reconstitution of the Palestinian infrastructure, in particular, the security apparatus, which had been completely destroyed.

    JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said on 9 April Israel had expressed dismay at the statement made by Mauritius, claiming that it was one-sided. The delegate, however, was certainly aware of his country’s unequivocal condemnation of terrorism. On that date, the international community was calling upon Israel to stop its military assaults in the occupied Palestinian territories. Humanitarian workers were denied access to the refugee camps and were prevented from providing basic necessities. Ambulances were shot at, while doctors were killed. In other words, Israel continued to flout Council resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002). In the face of that human tragedy, the position of Mauritius could certainly be well understood.

    He said that there were reports of the horrific scale of devastation perpetrated by Israel in that area. The Special Coordinator of the United Nations to the Middle East, Terje Roed Larsen, today stated that the scene in Jenin was horrifying beyond belief, as if there had been an earthquake. That sadly reminded of the 11 September devastation. There should be a full-scale international investigation of the events in Jenin, and Israel should cooperate with the fact-finding mission that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) intended to head in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel should lift all curfew on Jenin and it should cooperate fully with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He called upon Israel to immediately withdraw from all Palestinian cities and to implement immediately Council resolutions 1402 and 1403.

    The Secretary-General’s proposal for a robust and credible multinational force appeared to be timely and the only solution to the crisis. He called on all members of the Council, as well as on the international community, to give careful consideration to that proposal, so that a further aggravation of the situation, which could lead to a full-scale regional disaster, could be averted.

    ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that expectations for Secretary of State Powell’s mission had perhaps been too great, and their concrete effect would only come to be realized with time. But the reality was that all initiatives undertaken had left an additional sense of frustration, because the two parties had still not complied with resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002), which was why the Council was meeting again today.

    Regarding the humanitarian situation, he said descriptions of Jenin spoke of devastation comparable to the aftermath of an earthquake, such was the level of destruction. What had happened there went beyond any military logic. Reports of the demolition of homes with women and children inside were appalling, and reported summary executions were flagrant violations of human rights.

    Going beyond emergency humanitarian action, he said, there must be a clarification of what had happened in the refugee camp. But while Jenin was perhaps the most dramatic such situation, it was certainly not the only one. It had been reported that strict military control of access to the Gaza Strip was causing food shortages and that the visit to the area by the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been postponed, because she had not been granted permission.

    However, he stressed that suicide bombings against civilians could not be condoned. Colombia had always condemned such terrorist actions and pointed out how ineffective they were in achieving political aims. Referring to the Church of the Nativity, he emphasized that the use of holy sites for confrontation was also unacceptable.

    Welcoming the Secretary-General’s proposal for a multinational force, he said it must be examined with the utmost seriousness. The two parties were entirely immersed in the logic of war, and it was, therefore, necessary for a third party to step in. Neither side could achieve the security that one hoped for, or the political life the other aspired to. Only negotiations could lead to those goals, and the parties must welcome the Secretary-General’s proposal.

    RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), associating himself with the statement made by the representative of Spain on behalf of the European Union, said resolution 1397 (2002) had affirmed a vision of what could be achieved by the parties towards the goal of two States living side by side in peace, within secure and recognized borders. Resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002) had not been implemented, including by the failure of Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian-controlled territories. The situation remained an unacceptable affront to the values cherished in the United Nations and the international community.

    He fully accepted that Israel had a right and a duty to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks and totally condemned the practice of suicide bombings. His country, he said, knew from its own experience the fear generated by acts of terror, but also that it was not enough to fight terrorism by military means alone. Any actions by Israel must also be proportionate and must be in accordance with international humanitarian law. The actions of the past two weeks had been far from proportionate. What had happened could not be regarded as other than a serious breach of international humanitarian law.

    He said Israel must now cooperate fully with UNRWA and other agencies. Water and electricity supplies must be restored. The curfew in Jenin must be lifted. Israel must also cooperate fully with the Secretary-General, the UNHCR, the ICRC and non-governmental organizations to help them establish what had happened, in Jenin and elsewhere. He specifically requested the Israeli Government to allow Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to enter Israel and the Palestinian areas to fulfil the mandate given her by the United Nations body charged with the protection of human rights, and to do so now. He called on the Palestinian Authority to do all in its power to prevent acts of violence against civilians and on both sides to implement fully resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002). He shared the Secretary-General’s concern of the danger to regional security presented by the attacks launched across the "Blue Line".

    He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal for an international force and urged the parties to give it the most careful consideration. He also urged others in the international community to persuade them of the help it could offer towards emerging from the present deadlock. An international conference, called for the purpose of setting in motion negotiations aimed at achieving the vision enshrined in Secretary of State Powell’s Louisville speech, in the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah, and in resolution 1397 (2002), was worth the most careful consideration. It must be for each participant to nominate its own representative to such a conference, he said.

    JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom), subscribing to the European Union statement, recalled that during the Council’s last meeting he had described Israel’s military actions as intolerable and now found that their continuation had become more than could be borne. The image of the region’s only democratic State lowering its standards to such depths was a disturbing one. Such actions were not only unacceptable in terms of what Israel was professing to achieve, it was also futile and unproductive.

    Emphasizing the need to observe international law and international humanitarian law in the conduct of military operations, he said the importance of humanitarian operations was paramount. Relief agencies must be allowed to operate and Israel must make that clear to its forces on the ground. In addition, the United Kingdom was all too aware that Council resolutions had not been implemented and continued to insist that Israel withdraw its forces immediately.

    Applauding Secretary of State Powell’s efforts and those of the Quartet, he said there was no alternative to intensive third-party action to ensure the two parties returned to a sensible course. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had made some carefully considered proposals, and the United Kingdom would study them in detail, recognizing that its realization would require the consent of both parties.

    Noting that automatic recourse to violence was entrenching itself in the psychology of both sides, he said the Palestinian leadership had not been convincing in its efforts to end terrorist attacks. However, both sides bore the responsibility for returning to the peace process. The Palestinians were entitled to a national homeland, and Israel was entitled to live in security. The two went together.

    ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said the picture in the Middle East was serious and the prognosis was pessimistic. Nothing of what had been attempted so far had been of any use. The Palestinians and Israelis were stuck in a spiral of resentment, reprisals and hatred. What had occurred in Jenin would only make things worse. Continuation of suicide attacks could only drive away the hope and prospect of a solution. He was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, particularly in the Jenin refugee camp. What the Secretary-General had told the Council yesterday seemed to confirm the worst fears of the international community, namely, that in Jenin some deplorable acts had been committed.

    A first important step would be for the international community to take humanitarian action to protect the civilian population. He reiterated its appeal to Israel to fully act in accordance with international humanitarian law and allow full access for humanitarian relief workers. He supported the initiative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and asked that she be allowed to visit the territories. The international community demanded that a fact-finding mission be set up to show the true dimensions of what had occurred. The Secretary-General must define the manner in which that investigation should be carried forward.

    He deplored the fact that international initiatives had remained a dead letter. Council resolutions must be complied with without conditions. In the Middle East, action could no longer be based on assumptions invalidated by the actors. The solution would not come from any initiative from the parties nor could it be imposed on them by force. But the international community, the Council and the Quartet must craft formulas for a viable exit. A third party was necessary in the field -- an actor fully legitimate and acting firmly. The paralysis of the parties must not lead to any paralysis of the international community. The international community must take a proactive attitude. That was why he welcomed enthusiastically the Secretary-General’s proposal to set up a multinational force under Chapter VII.

    KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said the international community, including the Council, had given full backing to Secretary of State Powell’s mission, and today’s meeting was an opportunity for members to see how much progress had been achieved in compliance with the Council resolutions and the presidential statement of 10 April.

    It was regrettable that the Council’s demands for an immediate cessation of violence and withdrawal of Israeli forces had not been fulfilled, he said. Instead, there was a grim humanitarian situation, which must be reversed immediately. There had been claims and counter-claims on the nature and extent of the humanitarian situation and only an independent and impartial body could establish the true picture.

    He said Secretary of State Powell’s visit had achieved some results, including the joint statement by the Quartet supported by the Council on ending the violence, starting the withdrawal of Israeli forces and genuine efforts by the Palestinian Authority to take steps towards ending suicide bombings and other terrorist acts. Long-term progress depended on the political will of both sides to move beyond short-term goals to the longer-term vision set out in resolution 1397 (2002) of two States living side by side within secure and recognized borders.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan had provided convincing reasons why a robust multinational force could provide the political space required for a return to peace negotiations, he said. It was now up to the Council to decide whether it could live up to its own Charter obligations, as the principal organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Its clear pronouncements were being flouted, which would, in the long run, damage its credibility and the security of all States. If the Council did not take steps to ensure the implementation of resolutions 1397 (2002), 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002), its ability to ensure implementation of its other resolutions would be eroded.

    MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said the entire world had witnessed the killing and destruction in the Jenin refugee camp and other cities and villages. Associating himself with the statement of Tunisia, on behalf of the Arab Group, he said Israel was waging a war against the very values of peace. Its only aims seemed to be to kill peace and to oppress the aspirations of the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. In its persistence to continue those policies, it had not even heeded the advice of its closest allies. Israel had rejected all calls for immediate withdrawal from Palestinian cities, and to stop attacks on Palestinian civilians.

    He said Israel had not expressed direct rejection of resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002), but had acted consistently against the substance of those resolutions, which constituted an attack on the Council’s credibility. The Israelis had attempted to ride the wave of anti-terrorism and had used the tactic of buying time to perpetrate more war crimes and ethnic cleansing. It was sad that the Council and the whole United Nations system had so far been unable to put an end to the Israeli massacre.

    That impotence was also clear in the United Nations failure to respond to the cries of its own officials, he said. Peter Hansen of UNWRA had spoken of grave violations by Israel of the Geneva Convention by intentionally destroying medical equipment owned by the United Nations, and how UNWRA ambulances had been targeted. All those and other acts were war crimes, crimes against humanity, including crimes of genocide, and must be directly condemned by the international community.

    What had happened must not lead to paralysis of the Council, he said. The Council must shoulder its fundamental responsibility to maintain international peace and security. The draft resolution tabled by the Arab Group contained a paragraph requesting the Secretary-General to dispatch a committee to the Jenin camp to investigate the Jenin massacre. That draft was another attempt that ought to be supported by all members of the Council, because it responded to the wishes of the international community and reflected the desire to safeguard the prestige and role of the Council and consistency in its actions.

    The establishment of the Palestinian independent State on Palestinian soil with East Jerusalem as its capital and the rightful return of Palestinian returnees were the elements of a peaceful settlement, he said. Continuing occupation and killing of Palestinian would not obtain peace. While he highly appreciated the Secretary-General’s call for an end of the tragedy, he called on the international community to help in preventing a catastrophe on the land of Palestine and against its people. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal for the dispatch of a multinational force.

    OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said he regretted that Secretary Powell’s mission to the Middle East had not achieved all its goals, but he welcomed the continued United States commitment to finding a way to peace. Israel had the right to protect its citizens. The terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens must be condemned and they must stop. Yet, Israel carried a big responsibility also for the well-being of innocent civilians living in the occupied territories. He was deeply shocked by the damage inflicted by the Israeli military attacks, in particular in Jenin.

    He was extremely concerned with the humanitarian consequences of the destruction inflicted upon Palestinian towns, villages, and in particular the refugee camp in Jenin. It was in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians to find out exactly what happened in Jenin. It was now important to provide urgent assistance to the wounded, the homeless and the hungry. Israel must immediately allow unhindered access for all humanitarian organizations and emergency supplies. Norway, as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for assistance to the Palestinian people, was hosting a meeting in Oslo on 24 and 25 April. Norway supported the idea of establishing an observer mechanism. The ideas of the Secretary-General regarding a third-party mechanism was an important contribution to the discussion, but such a mechanism was dependent on the consent of both parties.

    He called on Israel and the Palestinians to act with responsibility and to move towards a political resolution of the conflict. He called on Israel to immediately halt all its military operations and withdraw its forces from reoccupied Palestinian towns and villages. President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must do its utmost to stop all terrorism. President Arafat must be allowed to resume his duties as head of the Palestinian Authority. Peace negotiations must be resumed with the aim of realizing the international consensus on the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within internationally recognized borders.

    JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States), reporting on Secretary of State Powell's findings during his mission, said he had secured an Israeli commitment to wind down its military operations. Israel's forces had withdrawn from Jenin and would be pulling out of Nablus soon. The Secretary had also obtained a clear statement from the Palestinian leadership condemning recent terrorist attacks, notably, the horrific suicide bombings in Netanya and Jerusalem.

    He said that yesterday Mr. Powell had found broad support among Israelis and Palestinians, Arab States and the Quartet for a comprehensive strategy, as a way forward, comprising three key elements: security and freedom from terror and violence for both Israelis and Palestinians; serious and accelerated negotiations to revive hope and lead to a political settlement; and economic and humanitarian assistance to address the increasingly desperate conditions faced by the Palestinian people.

    Progress achieved must be measured against the commitment to sustained engagement with the parties and determination to make significant progress towards peace, he emphasized. Full implementation of resolution 1402 (2002), and a just and lasting solution based on resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002) remained the goal. Given the complexities ahead, the Council must remain focused on the region.

    He said the United States had pressed Israel to allow full and unimpeded access to the Jenin camp for humanitarian organizations and services. The Israelis should allow immediate, unrestricted entry of international humanitarian and aid workers, as well as search and rescue teams. Further Security Council action was not the best way to alleviate the priority humanitarian objective of alleviating the situation in Jenin. The Council could make more of an impact by working with the parties on the ground.

    The Security Council was most effective and its resolutions most meaningful when its actions were focused on areas of convergence and agreement, he said. When Council members spoke with one voice and demonstrated cohesion, their words had real strength. When they focused too narrowly on areas of difference and condemnation of one side or another, they risked inflaming the conflict at hand, which could only be counterproductive to the aim of bringing lasting peace to that beleaguered region of the world.

    The President of the Security Council, SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation), speaking in his national capacity, said despite efforts made by many the situation in the Middle East had deteriorated. The humanitarian situation had been described by everybody as catastrophic. The Council must take urgent measures. The members of the international community were united in their belief that a comprehensive settlement could only be achieved in the framework of a political dialogue and immediate implementation of resolution 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002), including removal of all impediments to relief organizations and lifting the siege of Yasser Arafat.

    He welcomed the initiative of the Secretary-General regarding the sending of an international force, but that initiative would require discussion in the Council. It was important, in that regard, to develop common approaches among all parties and his country would work with the parties and other participants of the Quartet towards that end. He agreed with the Secretary-General that resolutions 1397 (2002), 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002), the ministerial statement of the Quartet and the peace initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia contained all components for a lasting settlement.

    The most important thing now was implementation of resolution 1402. Only that could prevent escalation of the events, which could set fire to the entire region, he said.

    NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, referred to a statement yesterday in which Israel's representative had said that the use of the term "massacre" was politically convenient for the Palestinian side, and attempted to create moral equivalence between a suicide bomber targeting civilians and a soldier protecting citizens.

    He said he was not aware that people could be targeted for political convenience. Also, there could be no military justification for bulldozing homes with people inside. Actions taken by the Israeli side were much worse, because they were committed by an army of the State implementing the official policies of a government whose soldiers were committing clear violations of the Geneva Convention. Palestinian actions involved people perpetrating acts that directly contravened official policy. There was much more death and destruction on the Palestinian side.

    The Palestinian delegation was perplexed by comments made by the representative of Bulgaria, who did not see the need for any new resolution, he said. Perhaps he did not see the need for a positive response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. In addition, the delegate had made probably the most hesitant comments about the Secretary-General's proposal. It was surprising that since Bulgaria's arrival in the Security Council it had not shown the necessary sensitivity towards Palestinian requests to the Council.

    He said the Palestinian delegation understood the hesitancy of some members and hoped they understood the pressing need for a resolution, from the Palestinian point of view. A resolution was necessary on Jenin, including the need for an investigation, and on the fact that the previous resolutions had not been implemented. He expected that the issue of an international presence would be left to consultations between the Secretary-General and Council members.

    The Arab draft resolution was a positive one, but there were others, including that put forward by the United Kingdom, he went on. The Palestinian and Syrian delegations would work with other Council members to reach acceptable language and take necessary action in response to the humanitarian situation, and the fact that the previous resolutions had not been implemented.

    AARON JACOB (Israel), responding to the Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the Israeli actions in Jenin and elsewhere were undertaken reluctantly, in self-defence against an unrelenting campaign of violence and terrorism incited, supported and financed by the Palestinian Authority and undertaken only after the Authority had been given ample opportunity to fulfil its commitment. Israel had endeavoured only to uproot the infrastructure of terror and deeply regretted the death of civilians. Primary responsibility for the deaths lay with the terrorists, who had taken up residence in civilian areas and refugee camps, in violation of international law and Council resolutions. He shared the concern of the international community for the humanitarian situation, but dead Israelis were also a humanitarian problem.

    How long the Council could ignore the constant incitement, the hatred, the glorification of suicide bombers and the legitimization of terrorism from political and spiritual leaders, and for how long could the occupation be blamed? he asked. Occupation had not been the problem between 1948 and 1967, and the Palestinians had not then established a State. It was not a problem at Camp David, and still peace was rejected. Still, the Palestinian side placed full blame squarely on the shoulders of Israel, as if 54 years of rejecting Israel's right to exist and fomenting hatred of Jews had nothing to do with the continuation of violence and unrest in the region.

    The Council had said that the Palestinians, too, had responsibilities. The Observer for Palestine had informed the Council yesterday that the Palestinians would do nothing to combat terror and would not negotiate until Israel fully withdrew, which was in defiance of resolution 1402 (2002). Such assertions enabled the Palestinian to perpetuate the fiction that a succession of Israeli leaders were solely to blame for the situation. Today, it was Sharon, before him Barak and Netanyahu and Peres. Before them was Yitzhak Rabin. He, too, was a problem and an obstacle to peace in the region. Apparently, the only regional leader who had not been an obstacle to peace was the great liberal democrat Yasser Arafat.

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