The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Yemen.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba), Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said it had been three months since the General Assembly overwhelmingly concluded that the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations would lead to serious consequences. The situation remained extremely fragile and volatile. It was common knowledge that 1997 had been largely wasted from the standpoint of peace negotiations because of the policies of the Israeli authorities. Its promising start had been quickly negated by Israel's actions.
The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, continued to be bleak and disturbing, he said. The Palestinian Rights Committee had, on a number of occasions, drawn the attention of the international community to the alarming deterioration of the situation, particularly on the question of Israeli settlement activities, the prolonged blockades, and the exacerbation of violence and tension. The settlement activities continued, and there were reports of the expansion of the existing settlements, construction of bypass roads linking the settlements, setting up by settlers of mobile homes on Palestinian land, and the denial of residency rights to Palestinian Jerusalemites. Perhaps most worrying were the declarations of intent by Israeli government officials regarding plans for the construction of new settlements.
Last week, news of the most recent increase in tensions in the West Bank in the vicinity of Hebron had been received with great concern and dismay, he said. The several days of violent confrontations in the city and other parts of the West Bank followed the killing of three Palestinians by Israeli border troops earlier last week. To date, there had been dozens of Palestinians injured, including children. As had happened many times before, armed settlers had again been involved in the shootings.
The situation in the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, remained tense and carried a potential for renewed violence, he said. The Committee, therefore, wished to reaffirm the urgency of impressing on the Government of Israel the need to abide by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the principles of international humanitarian law. As a Member of the United Nations, Israel was also duty-bound to respect and uphold the principles enshrined in the Organization's Charter, as well as those contained in the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
MOHAMMAD J. AL-SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said the recent events in the Middle East clearly demonstrated Israel's refusal to apply the legal obligations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in all the occupied territories. It was obvious that Israel did not respect its obligations under international legal instruments. The Assembly should decide to convene the expert meeting of the High Contracting Parties to ensure that Israel would respect its obligations under the Convention. Switzerland should take the necessary steps for the holding of that expert meetings.
He expressed concern that the delay in the implementation of Assembly resolutions could be seen as encouraging Israel to pursues its punishing policies in the occupied territories, which included the demolition of houses, deportation of citizens and confiscation of land. Those actions violated rules of international human rights law and embodied Israel's avoidance of its obligations. Israel continued to assert that the issue of security justified its actions, but that excuse concealed its true reason, which was the pursuit of deliberate expansionist objectives.
The United Arab Emirates condemned all such Israel practices and its unwarranted violations which ran counter to the fundamental rules of international human rights principles, he said. The United Nations must discharge its legal responsibility to address the question of Palestine.
He called on all the actors in the peace process to make further efforts
to bring pressure to bear on Israel so that it might comply with its obligations.
He also called for the full implementation of all relevant Assembly resolutions.
A lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East could not be realized in the face of Israel's continued campaign to build settlements and its violations of the peace agreements, he said.
The international community must act to deter those practices. The United Arab Emirates appealed to all member of the international community, and particularly the donor countries, to extend technical and humanitarian support to the Palestinian people to help them improve their living conditions.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that resolutions calling for an end to illegal actions, including the building and expansion of settlements in the occupied territories, had gone unheeded by the occupying Power, Israel. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which aims at protecting civilians in time of war and preventing an occupying Power from settling its own people in occupied territory, undoubtedly applied to Israel.
The failure of the international community to take firm action in the face of Israel's illegal activities in the occupied territories could be misconstrued as approval, he said. The time had come for the international position to change from one of mere verbal condemnation to action that would guarantee compliance with international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions. The recent killing of three Palestinian workers made it imperative that the international community take a strong stand.
ALVARO FORERO (Colombia) said the international community should ensure that no effort was spared to find a path to peace in the Middle East. The international community could not comply with that obligation without full respect for international humanitarian law and for General Assembly resolutions.
Israel's decision to continue its settlement policies in the occupied territories was a perversion of the spirit of the Oslo agreements and eroded the environment of cooperation. Out of that situation arose the need for the Assembly to find a way to protect the valuable gains achieved in the Middle East peace process. The most urgent goal was the protection of international law in the occupied territories.
Therefore, the High Contracting Parties should convene a meeting to ensure compliance with the Geneva Convention. A preliminary meeting of experts would be a positive step in ensuring that the conference of the High Contracting Parties would be a success, he said. Initiatives were needed to reactivate the peace process, which was now dangerously stalled. Colombia supported the draft resolution currently before the Assembly. It represented an effort to make use of available tools to protect international humanitarian law.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said it was totally unacceptable that a single State should continue to defy the international community and violate international law and treaty obligations. The international community could not stand idly by in the face of such blatant violations by Israel of the decisions taken by the general Assembly. That concern had also been voiced at meetings of the Arab Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the "Group of 77" developing countries during the regular session of the current General Assembly.
Bangladesh condemned Israel's policy of systematically violating international humanitarian law and the fundamental freedoms and basic human rights in the occupied territories, he said. The international community had a responsibility to recall Israel's obligation under the Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions to guarantee the basic human rights of the people under its occupation, and to ensure that those rights were respected. For the people under Israeli occupation, the crucial issues related to maintaining personal dignity, restoration of rights and property, and autonomy in decision making.
He said his country disagreed with arguments in favour of dissociating the Security Council and the General Assembly from the peace process -- a process which rested basically on Council and Assembly resolutions. The United Nations had an abiding responsibility for resolution of the problems in the Middle East. The establishment of a sovereign, independent state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital remained at the core of that situation.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said it had often been argued by some that the various resolutions tabled in the General Assembly and the Security Council had not advanced the peace process, and that they had made the task of rebuilding confidence and of reactivating a productive negotiating process more difficult. The truth was that, given the intransigent attitude of Israel, which ignored all international appeals and pressed ahead with its controversial settlement activities, Palestine had no recourse but to continue to bring the issue to the attention of the international community.
Ultimately, a final solution would have to satisfy not only the security interests of Israel, but also the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Palestinian people, he said. What was needed, therefore, was a sober assessment by Israel of its current policies, which had not worked and would not usher in the peace and security for which they had obviously, but mistakenly, been designed.
If it was sincere in its desire to live peacefully with its Arab neighbours, Israel would have to live up to all its treaty commitments and eschew its current policies in favour of cooperation, collaboration and friendship with the Palestinians. He said Malaysia believed that the major Powers and the friends of Israel could and should continue to play a constructive role. He called upon them, particularly the main sponsors of the Middle East peace process, to exert their influence and use their leverage to move the process forward.
In that regard, Malaysia welcomed the proposed visit by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, in his capacity as President of the European Community, to the Palestinian occupied territories, including Jebel Abu Ghneim, to look at the objective realities on the ground.