Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, Agenda Item 109: Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, 53rd Session, 26 October 1998:

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation is taking the floor to address agenda item 109, "Right of peoples to self-determination", which is an inalienable right of peoples, as well as a basic human right. It is a right that enables people to freely choose and determine their destiny and political, economic and social systems. Moreover, it gives them sovereignty over their land, wealth and resources. All peoples are entitled to exercise and enjoy this right. The denial of this fundamental right contradicts the principles and norms of the United Nations Charter and international law. In this regard, serious action is required to combat injustices and oppression and secure the right of all peoples to self-determination.

The challenge of the full realization and protection of people’s human rights, collective or individual, including their right to self-determination, remains a critical issue inherently connected to international efforts to maintain peace and security worldwide. The fulfillment of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments is crucial in that direction.

The outcomes of the major U.N. conferences and special sessions have reaffirmed the right to self-determination of all peoples, including those living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation. Most recently this has been endorsed by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of June 1993 and the Declaration of the World Summit convened on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. Despite all of this, however, today the Palestinian people continue to live under the Israeli occupation and its oppressive polices and practices. They have suffered for too long discrimination, oppression and injustice. Moreover, their right to self-determination continues to been denied. Greater effort by the international community is necessary for the fulfillment of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Mr. Chairman,

For the Palestinian people, who comprise about 7 million persons with a great history and civilization and national identity, recognition of their right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state are absolutely essential and basic to the attainment of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. No peace can be achieved without recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

We are people with pride and dignity seeking to fulfill our natural right to sovereignty and independence. The present situation of the Palestinian people is characterized by an increase in their suffering, frustration and humiliation as a result of illegal and oppressive Israeli polices and practices. The Israeli government continues to deny the Palestinian people their basic and fundamental rights and continues to create new facts on the ground, most of which are illegal colonial settlements, and it continues also to restrict the freedom of movement and to detain prisoners. Furthermore, the problems of the Palestine refugees and displaced persons are ongoing to this day.

Our hope is that the prevailing situation will soon change positively and that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination can soon be exercised within the course of the peace process, with the establishment of their independent state and Jerusalem its capital. We have not lost hope that the peace process will bring about peace and prosperity for the whole region. It is very imperative at this stage that Member States of the United Nations extend their support for this basic right of the Palestinian people. There should be recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to decide their own future, which can only be effectuated through the realization by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights, including their right to return, to self-determination and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr. Chairman,

I wish to reemphasize the extreme importance that the international community, especially Member States of the United Nations, support and recognize this basic right of the Palestinian people. Further in this regard, I would like to reiterate what President Arafat asked for in this regard: "I would like to call upon all of you… to stand by our people, especially as the five-year transitional period provided for in the Palestinian-Israeli agreements will end on 4 May 1999 and our people demand of us to shoulder our responsibilities and they await the establishment of their independent state. This independent Palestinian State must be established as an embodiment of the right of our people to self-determination."

It is our hope that the draft resolution, which my delegation will submit to the members of the Committee, will be adopted by consensus. This will represent an important step towards the enjoyment and exercise by the Palestinian people of their fundamental rights, including their right to self-determination, which they have for so long been seeking to fulfill. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.