Press Releases

                                                                            20 July 2004

    General Assembly Emergency Session Postpones Action on Draft Resolution Concerning Israel’s Separation Barrier

    NEW YORK, 19 July (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly briefly reconvened its tenth emergency special session today and postponed action on a draft resolution laying out steps to end Israel's construction of a separation barrier in and around the West Bank, which has been declared illegal in an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice.

    When the session resumed last Friday, Arab and a group of non-aligned countries called for a draft that would have United Nations Member States accept the court ruling, and demand Israeli compliance.  While the Palestinian Observer hailed the World Court’s decision as “a watershed event ... based on international law”, Israel described the ruling as a “dark day” for the Court, saying that had it ignored attacks on Israel.

    At the beginning of today’s meeting the representative of Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that his delegation had presented a draft text last Friday, 16 July.  Since that time, Iraq and Belize had joined as co-sponsors. He added that Mauritania should replace Mauritius on the list of co-sponsors.  A revised text would be produced at a later stage.

    As it stands, the draft, entitled:  “Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem” (document A/ES-10/L.18), would have the Assembly “acknowledge with appreciation” the Court’s opinion and take note of particular paragraphs included therein, among others, that “the construction of the wall … and its associated regime are contrary to international law.”

    By the text, the Assembly, considering that the acceptance of the advisory opinions was “essential to the rule of law and reason in international affairs” would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply with its legal obligations as determined by the current opinion.  Along with ceasing construction of the wall, the Assembly would demand that Israel dismantle the existing portions and “make reparations for all damages caused” by the construction. 

    The draft also says that, in the case of Israeli ”non-compliance”, the General Assembly would reconvene ”to consider further actions to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall”.

    Before the meeting adjourned, the representative of Israel said that he hoped his statement would contribute in some minor way to make up for having been called to the conference room for barely 90 seconds.  He protested the meeting, its brevity, in general, and that fact that practically no information was given, in particular.  Everyone, he was sure, had more important things to do than to listen to a 30 second “explanation”, which gave no details.  It was clear that the United Nations and the General Assembly were once again being taken for a ride.

    The people in the room, and the wider United Nations process, were again being abused by the Palestinian Observer and those that represented that cause.  He recalled that last Friday, when the Assembly debated the World Court’s decision, he had pointed out that the Palestinian side should be the last to preach to the international community about law and order.  “They should not lecture anyone about the rule of law or accuse others of being outlaws”, he said.  “We have indeed reached the point where the inmates are running the asylum.”

    And, in proof of point, everyone had watched what had happened over the weekend, where the head of the Palestinian police force had been kidnapped and then freed.  French nationals were kidnapped and the freed.  The Palestinian Prime Minister had resigned.  People had been designated to fill other open Cabinet positions had been hired and then they too resigned.  That was a state of lawlessness.  He urged the Assembly to keep in mind who the Palestinian Observer represented and then consider whether or not that was who should preach to the international community.

    The Observer of Palestine said that he had few words for the “hopeless” previous speaker.  The draft resolution related to a case brought to the International Court of Justice by the General Assembly relating to Israel’s conduct in the Palestinian occupied territories.  It was not Palestine versus Israel, he said.  It was the United Nations General Assembly considering the actions of Israel, the occupying Power -- the only remaining colonial Power in the world.  Israel was actively colonizing the land of indigenous Palestinians and continued to violate the resolutions of the United Nations and all international rules and norms related to proper conduct, and even morality.  He would dwell no further in the Israeli representative’s statement.

    As for the draft, he said the text already enjoyed “broad support” among Assembly members.  Nevertheless, given the importance of the matter, the co-sponsors felt that there was a need to seek “close to unanimity”. But negotiations were ongoing, with one delegation in particular. The lead negotiators had planned to call for a vote today and believed that all discussions that had taken place would lead to the issuance of a revised text in a few hours. The main sponsors had also considered giving Member States more time to review that revised text when it was issued.  That was why the main sponsor, Jordan, had proposed the postponement.

    The bottom line was clear, he said. There were ongoing negotiations aimed at broadening the already wide support for the text. Everyone would be given a chance to consult with their capitals before action was taken, hopefully tomorrow afternoon. While attempting to give a chance for further talks, the negotiators regretted any inconvenience caused by today’s brief meeting. Nevertheless, he believed that everyone understood the importance of the matter.  After all, it was not something that happened every day.  He hoped the Assembly President had the time on his schedule to allow action to be taken tomorrow.

    The representative of Jordan said he apologized for having taken 30 seconds of everyone’s time.  He hoped he had saved everyone time by limiting his statement to six seconds.

    Before adjourning the meeting, Assembly President Julian Robert Hunte (Saint Lucia) said that he wished to comment on “something that had been bothering him” even before he had assumed his post.  He wanted to caution against the language that was used in matters that were ticklish in debates that would only serve inflame tensions and make matters worse.

    He objected strongly to any analogy that was made which might have the tendency to describe the debates taking place inside the United Nations “as inmates running an asylum.”  He thought of the United Nations as “the mother and father of democracy”.  The Organization’s job was to debate issues -- no matter how long it took and no matter how innocuous it might seem to some.  He urged all delegations to accord the proper dignity to those debates and discussions if and when they occurred.

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