The Security Council Meets, With No Action Taken, on the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Once again, the United States blocked action by the United Nations Security Council on a draft resolution regarding the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. On 23 August 2001, during informal consultations of the Council, the Charge dí Affaires of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. informed the members of the Council that the U.S. would veto any draft resolution dealing with the matter.

The attempt to get the Security Council engaged and adopt the necessary resolution began with the request for a formal meeting of the Council by Mali and Qatar on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference. The Council convened a morning and afternoon session on 20 August 2001 and convened another afternoon session on the following day. During the Councilís three sessions, a total of 49 speakers addressed the Council regarding the current tragic situation. In their statements, the overwhelming majority of speakers rejected attempts to neutralize the Council and stressed the duty of the Council to remain engaged and to take action in contributing to putting an end to the bloodshed. The overwhelming majority also expressed grave concern at Israeli actions, ranging from the Israeli closures to the extra-judicial killings and assassinations being committed against the Palestinian people. Recent actions taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, including the occupation of the Orient house and other Palestinian institutions in and around East Jerusalem were a matter of concern to mostly all of the speakers as well. In addition, many speakers expressed concern at the bombings that took place in Israel.

At an early stage, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations distributed a modest draft resolution based on agreed language reached during the discussion of the Council last March, with some update of language to take into consideration recent events. Among the elements of the draft resolution were the following: calls on the two sides to start the comprehensive and immediate implementation of the recommendations made in the Report of the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee (Mitchell Report); calls for the resumption of negotiations between the two sides within the Middle East peace process on its agreed basis, taking into consideration developments in previous discussions between the two sides and urging them to reach a final agreement on all issues, on the basis of their previous agreements, with the objective of implementing resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

In light of the U.S position, some members of the Council expressed readiness to work towards a Presidential Statement. The Palestinian side did not accept the idea of a Presidential Statement and regarded it as too little and too late. The Palestinian side was also not willing to accept a Presidential Statement because of the difficulty that would involve negotiations on such a statement without achieving substantial results. At some point, Singapore, the Coordinator of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Caucus for the month of August, supported the idea of a Presidential Statement and thus a unified position of the Caucus in support of the draft resolution was not achieved. On 23 August 2001, the UK and Norway presented a draft Presidential Statement which only confirmed Palestinian concerns regarding the idea. The language of the statement was, in fact, as bad as the idea itself. At least six members of the Council expressed rejection of the idea and the text, insisting on the need for a draft resolution, while other members expressed readiness to work for the achievement of either. At that point, on 24 August 2001, the Palestinian side informed members of the NAM Caucus and other members of the Council that it decided not to press for a vote on the draft resolution. The Palestinian decision took into consideration the need to maintain a united position of the NAM Caucus and the need to engage in further discussion with the European members to ensure their support.

At this stage, the Palestinian side reaffirms its intention to continue to push for action by the Security Council on the basis of the U.N. permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine. The Palestinian side will never accept attempts to block the Council and will not absolve the Security Council from its duties for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The following is the text of the draft resolution presented by the Palestinian side on 16 August 2001: