1 September 2005

Positive Momentum from Israeli Withdrawal of Settlements Will Hopefully Lead to Just Solution, Palestinian Rights Committee Told

NEW YORK, 31 August (UN Headquarters) -- The Chairman of the United Nations panel dealing with Palestinian rights today expressed hope that the positive momentum gained by Israel's removal of settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank would be followed by similar steps in the rest of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and "breathe new life into the political process."

The fresh impetus gained by the withdrawal would hopefully lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine, said Paul Badji (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, echoing a statement issued yesterday by the Bureau of the Committee on Palestinian Rights at United Nations Headquarters in New York (please see Press Release GA/PAL/990).

He also updated the Committee on the Bureau's activities since May, which included a meeting with the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari.  The Bureau also met with the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, to examine issues pertaining to existing cooperation between the Committee and the Department.

Updating the Committee on the latest developments in the Middle East and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Somaia S. Barghouti, Chargée d'Affaires of the Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that the international community had been closely watching the redeployment of the Israeli army and the events surrounding the withdrawal in the Gaza Strip.  While some of Israel's unilateral decisions in that regard had been troubling, the pull-out was a positive step towards a final solution.

The Palestinian Authority had taken further steps to coordinate with the Israeli Government to settle all remaining issues, she said.  The Israeli side had not responded positively to all its concerns, nor had the Israeli side assuaged fears that future actions would be taken within the bounds of international law.  Still, some important issues had been resolved.

Looking ahead, the Palestinian Authority would reaffirm its sovereignty over the territory and in Gaza Strip, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.  It would insist upon the need to ensure that there was no intervention in those areas and that a full pull-out will follow shortly.  It would also insist that the legal situation remained unchanged after the withdrawal was complete.  It would also emphasize the need put in place the political and financial foundations that would ensure the continuation of the political process.  In that regard, she welcomed the recent announcement made by the Group of Eight (G-8) most industrialized nations.

The Palestinian Authority would emphasize that political actions in the future must not be unilateral but must be negotiated, she said.  Any other such unilateral actions would be considered as undermining the peace process in general and the Road Map targets in particular.  It would also reaffirm that constriction of the separation wall in the West Bank contravened international law.  Neither of the parties would take measures that would run counter to a lasting, two-State solution, she added.

Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) said the withdrawal by Israel from any occupied Arab territories was a step in the right direction towards a just and lasting settlement.  He would have thought that such actions would have taken place in all such territories, however.  And while the conditions on the ground were less that favourable and indeed required close scrutiny, Syria was pleased to see the Israeli settlers leave Gaza so that the area could be returned to the Palestinian people and not become a prison for them.

Syria would point out, however, that many of the settlers had not been moved to Israel, but to settlements on Arab lands, particularly the Syrian Golan.  Those settlements, as well as all others, must be removed.  Israel must wake up and stop believing that Gaza and the West Bank will just disappear into the sea.  It must also understand that the peace process was hampered by the continued construction of the wall in the West Bank.  Israel must take action towards achieving a just solution, he said.

Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee, reported on the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Middle East Peace, held in Paris from 12 to 13 July, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) 9 July 2004 advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall.  Despite all efforts of the international community to act against the wall, the Israeli Government had not ceased the construction.

The Conference adopted an Action Plan, urging international, national and regional movements and organizations to support the call of Palestinian civil society for a global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against business entities that profited from and contributed to the Israeli occupation, putting pressure on Israel to end the occupation and to fully comply with international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions.

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

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