Statement by Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the General Assembly Plenary, Item 43: Situation in the Middle East, United Nations, New York, 1 December 1999:

 Mr. President,

              The international community is in agreement that the question of Palestine is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that it has a direct and strong impact on the situation in the Middle East as a whole.  However, the situation in the Middle East has other important aspects, which are the subject of great attention aimed at reaching appropriate solutions towards the achievement of a comprehensive peace in the region.

              At the outset, I would like to refer to specific aspects of the question of Palestine, whose dimensions extend to the regional situation and perhaps even further.   There is the issue of Jerusalem, which is the heart of the question of Palestine and at the same time has central importance for the Arab region and for the Islamic and Christian worlds in general.  Reaching an acceptable solution to the question of Jerusalem, based on international legitimacy, is thus a prerequisite for solving the question of Palestine in its totality and also a requisite for establishing peace and stability in the region as a whole.

              There is also the issue of the Palestine refugees.  There are still approximately 2 million Palestine refugees, out of approximately 4 million, living in the Arab countries neighboring Israel.  While we appreciate our Arab brethren hosting our refugees and bearing an immense burden in this regard, including providing them with reasonable living conditions without discrimination, we reiterate that the real and just solution for the problem of the refugees is the implementation of General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1949, which reaffirms their right to return to their homes and properties and compensation for those who do not wish to return.  I refer also to the displaced Palestinians from the Palestinian territory during the 1967 war, numbering around 700,000 persons and to Israel’s procrastination, and even its refusal, to allow them to return in accordance with Security Council resolution 273 (1967).  This was a return that was also supposed to be achieved during the transitional period in accordance with the agreements between the two sides.

 Mr. President,

              Israel still occupies other Arab territories in addition to the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.  It still occupies the Syrian Golan and South Lebanon, and it persists in violating international law and international humanitarian law and the United Nations resolutions relevant to these two areas.  We reiterate the necessity for complete Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan in implementation of Security Council resolution 242 of 1967, and we affirm the necessity to resume negotiations on the Syrian-Israeli track of the peace process, starting from the point where the negotiations broke off.   With regard to Lebanon, we affirm the necessity for Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanese territory in implementation of Security Council resolution 425 of 1978, without any conditions or limitations. We also call for the resumption of negotiations on the Lebanese-Israeli track. 

Mr. President,

              Israel’s insistence on possessing nuclear capabilities and its refusal to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) puts the whole region in great danger.  This position will undoubtedly lead to more complications in this sensitive area, including the possibility of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of all types in the region, in addition to other dangers or risks such as the possibility of indeliberate destruction in this small and densely populated area.  In addition to the above, there is also Israel’s insistence, as well as that of some of its friends, to continue in the sphere of armament in general.  This includes the establishment of new armament systems, including the missile system.  Some of the friends of Israel used to claim in the past that their armaments for Israel were a reaction to the armament by the former Soviet Union of some Arab parties.  But now, they declare publicly that they want to preserve Israel’s military edge.  Peace cannot be achieved through military might and it will never grow under the mentality of deterrence and military edge.  We affirm the necessity for stopping armaments in the region, and we affirm in particular the necessity for establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

 Mr. President, 

            Scarcity of water in the region of the Middle East represents one of the important problems that may be increasingly exacerbated during the coming years.   It is regrettable that Israel has not ceased its theft of Arab water resources, stealing enormous quantities of water from Palestinian sources or other Arab sources.  It is imperative that Israel stop this and recognize the rights of others and the permanent sovereignty of the Arab parties over their natural resources, including water, in order to pave the way for finding long-term solutions to this serious problem.  Solutions should have already been found for some of these aforementioned issues and negotiated through the multilateral negotiations.  However, the continuous and intransigent Israeli position in violation of international legitimacy with regard to returning the occupied Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese territories to their rightful sovereigns, which is the first and basic requisite for establishing peace, still prevents the effective resumption of these negotiations.  We hope that through the speedy resumption of the Syrian track and progress on the Palestinian track we can move to a stage where we can look into other regional problems with the aim of finding solutions to them that will promote the establishment of peace and consolidate its foundations.    

Mr. President, 

            How can peace be achieved in the Middle East?  How can this important region become involved in a genuine development process utilizing its available potentials?  The key to this strategic achievement is to address our deep feelings as Arabs, and even our convictions, that an unprecedented and grave injustice has befallen us.  It is our conviction that some parties promote certain values for themselves, while applying different values to others in the region.  It is our conviction that the principles of the Charter and international law and international humanitarian law and the priorities of the international community are being put aside by those parties when the issue concerns Israel. What is required, then, is to put an end to all of this - to end the double standard and to uphold the same values and the same international law.  This begins with terminating foreign occupation and respecting the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination.  After that, it will be more feasible to achieve all other important goals on the same basis and on the road to establishing peace and prosperity for all the peoples in the Middle East region. 

Thank you, Mr. President.