Statement by Mr. Marwan Jilani, Deputy Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the General Assembly Plenary, Agenda Item 20 (e): Assistance to the Palestinian People, 54th Session, 19 November 1999 (Translation from Arabic): 

            At the outset, on behalf of my delegation, I would like to express my gratitude to the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for his report in document A/54/134.

 My thanks also go to Mr. Chinmaya Gharekhan, who worked as the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories over the last three years, until 30 September 1999.  His efficiency and competence and his long and vast professional experience enabled him to fulfill the task entrusted to him and to his Office in the best manner, against all odds and under the most difficult, complex circumstances that have prevailed in that region over the three years of his tenure, particularly as a result of the various obstacles and difficulties stemming from the policy of closure and siege.  On behalf of the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people, we express our gratitude and appreciation to him as a loyal friend of the Palestinian people and wish him every success and happiness.

 We also welcome the decision of the Secretary-General to approve Mr. Terje Larsen as the new United Nations Coordinator for the peace process in the Middle East and as a Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.  Mr. Larsen was in fact the first to fill this post, from 1994 to 1996.  He is indeed a good and well-known friend who has contributed significantly to creating momentum for the peace process in the Middle East, particularly on the Palestinian track.  We congratulate him most sincerely and wish him every success in his new mission and assure him of our readiness to cooperate with him for the success of his task.

 At their meeting in Washington on 30 November of last year the donor countries pledged to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the amount of 3 billion dollars over a five-year period.  This pledge was reiterated during the recent meeting in Tokyo, held under the chairmanship of the Foreign Ministers of Japan and Norway in mid-October.  Regrettably, these pledges have not been honored and translated into action.  Moreover, there has been a drastic 50 percent decline this year in the annual contributions offered to the Palestinian people.

 Once again, we emphasize the importance of honoring the pledges undertaken by the donor countries, as well as the importance we attach to the contribution of the donor countries to the peace process and their assistance to the Palestinians to build and reconstruct their national institutions.  Achieving economic and social development will help Palestinian eliminate their suffering and the consequences of the abominable occupation so they can contribute effectively, like all other free peoples, to the prosperity and development of the region.  In this context, I should state that the Palestinian people greatly appreciate the efforts of the international community in this regard and would like to reiterate our gratitude to the donor countries for their continuous support.

 The report reflects that for the first time since the beginning of the peace process there has been a slight improvement in the living conditions of the Palestinian people.  This includes an increase in the gross domestic and national products as well as in the level of private investment.  Moreover, the report points out that the economic improvement in 1998 was due to a reduction in the number of widespread and comprehensive closures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  This fact underscores once again the need for Israel to refrain from implementing its policy of closures and siege, which has had devastating effects on the Palestinian economy.  We call upon Israel to put an end to its policy of using closures as a way of imposing collective punishment under all circumstances and conditions.  We also call upon Israel to halt immediately its illegal practices, particularly the expansion and construction of settlements, as well as the confiscation of land and the demolition of houses.

 The confiscation of land, the building of settlements and Israel’s negative attitude towards the Palestinian people will not increase the confidence of the peoples of the region in the peace process and in its potential for success, nor will it increase the confidence of private investors.  Credibility can be developed through the faithful honoring the spirit and letter of all agreements, without any delay, and by recognizing the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their rights to return to their homes, to self-determination and to building an independent State.  Recognition of these rights, as required by international legitimacy, is a prerequisite for a comprehensive, lasting, and just peace in the Middle East.

 We emphasize the important role that the United Nations plays in the achievement of this just, lasting and comprehensive peace, given its responsibility towards the Palestinian people.  Moreover, we would like to reaffirm the importance of the United Nations’ role in providing assistance to the Palestinian people, as well as the importance of the role of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority and of the Special Coordinator’s Office in Gaza.  This office should be strengthened and supported.