31 March 1995 (Not distributed)

Letter from Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., to the Secretary-General of the United Nations: (Palestine Status) 

I am writing to you once more on the subject of the proper and full implementation of General Assembly resolutions relevant to the status and rights of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, with urgent emphasis on some recent practices and positions taken by the Secretariat, which in my view have been inconsistent, negative in nature and, at times, have gone beyond traditional political neutrality.

Let me begin, Your Excellency, with events regarding the World Summit for Social Development and the participation of Palestine, in its capacity as observer, in the meetings of Heads of State or Government during the Summit. Prior to the meeting, we had extensive communications, both orally and written, with the Secretariat of the Summit in an effort to solve the problem of the speaking position assigned to H.E. Mr. Yasser Arafat. Nevertheless, the Secretariat insisted that he would be inscribed in the last position on the list, stating that the basis for this decision was the established practice of the General Assembly to give observers the floor after all member states have spoken and at the end of the whole meeting. Such an assertion by the Secretariat is not accurate and does not reflect the established practice, at least not with regard to the participation of Palestine as observer.

Over the years, it has been possible for Palestine to be inscribed on a list of speakers at any time, and the speaking position accorded to Palestine to make a statement has varied from first or second speaker to the last speaker of the group in a session. Moreover, and in the specific case of the Social Summit, an invitation, dated 24 February 1995, was conveyed by Your Excellency to Mr. Arafat. The invitation was sent in consultation with the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit for Social Development and was based on the action taken by the General Assembly with regard to the Commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary, with the essence that arrangements for the Summit applying to member and non-member states shall also apply to Palestine, in its capacity as observer. However, the position taken by the Secretariat left that invitation without any practical effect. That, unfortunately, led to a last-minute decision on our part not to participate in the high-level segment of the Summit.

The second issue relates to some positions taken by the Secretariat on the work of the Preparatory Committee for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations, insisting that the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee not give the floor to the Observer of Palestine in accordance with his request during the meeting of 28 March 1995, but rather to repeatedly push Palestine backwards by placing every new request to speak before it. This, of course, is absolutely inconsistent with the established practice in meetings of this nature, whether of this committee or of any similar body. There has never been any discrimination against Palestine with regard to participation in debates or discussion during such meetings, and it is absolutely impractical to try to establish new rules when a formal list of speakers does not even exist. Also, prior to the above-mentioned incident, it is our strong feeling that the Secretariat had injected certain language, contained in CRP.5, regarding the participation of observers, without agreement on such language in the Committee and in spite of the fact that the language itself was contradictory and inaccurate.

The third issue relates to the incident regarding the withdrawal of note verbale (NV/95/10), which I brought to Your Excellency's attention during our last meeting. You will recall that the Permanent Representative of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations and myself sent a letter to you, dated 13 January 1995, along with a copy of the "Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and the State of Palestine." No request for distribution was made, but the letter and the communique were distributed as a note verbale on 27 January 1995, which at a later date was withdrawn by the Secretariat in a corrigendum, dated 6 February 1995. Subsequently, the Secretariat maintained that the format of the note verbale is reserved for member states and that the document could not be reissued at the request of Papua New Guinea and Palestine. This, of course, does not make any sense since Papua New Guinea is a Member State.

Moreover in this regard, General Assembly resolution 43/160, which enabled Palestine (at the time Palestine Liberation Organization) to distribute communications as official documents of the United Nations did not differentiate between the types of official documents that could be distributed. Needless to say, note verbales are a less formal means of communication than letters and, accordingly, it is only logical to assume that Palestine alone could distribute such a note.

Allow me, Your Excellency, to now address the overall issue of the status and rights of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. Here I would like to register that there has indeed been certain progress in this regard since my letter to you, dated 15 September 1994, and the letter of the Legal Counsel of the United Nations to me, dated 3 October 1994, on the same issue. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation with regard to some of those changes, especially the correction of the title and designation of our Observer Mission. I must, however, indicate that, for no apparent reason, those changes have not arrived at their logical outcome.

In this regard, we maintain that the language used in the book of Permanent Missions to the United Nations (blue book) to describe the category under which Palestine is placed, and which refers to "other organizations", is incorrect. The Palestine Liberation Organization was granted observer status in the United Nations as a national liberation movement, and not as a mere organization. Also, several General Assembly resolutions were adopted in this regard under the agenda item entitled "Observer status of national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity and/or the League of Arab States." Further, to my recollection, in the past the blue book itself used only the word "others...", and not "other organizations...".

In addition, we also maintain that the seating arrangements, as well as the listing of observers in the blue book, should reflect that Palestine comes after non-member states, albeit in a separate and third category. We do not see the reason for having the secretariats of multi-lateral structures, namely the inter-governmental organizations, listed and seated before Palestine. On this issue as a whole, I would like to recall the fact that over the years the General Assembly and other United Nations organs, through resolutions and practice, conferred upon Palestine the most advanced rights and privileges among all other observers. We do hope that these two remaining problems will be solved in a favorable way.

Your Excellency, you will certainly appreciate the importance of this subject to us, and I am sure that you will give it sufficient attention. Further, it is our hope that actions will be taken to deal with the above-mentioned issues. We in the Middle East are living in a new era and, as such, we need to establish normal and peaceful conditions for all of us, not only on the ground, but everywhere, including at the United Nations.