Highlights

  • The Secretary-General and the Middle East: The Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Kofi Annan, began a nine-day regional trip to the Middle East on 17 March 1998. The visit comes in the wake of Mr. Annan’s successful intervention with regard to the situation with Iraq and it aims, as he explained, at meeting with the region’s leaders and acquiring first-hand knowledge of the situation in the region. On his first day in the area, he visited Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, as well as an UNRWA-run clinic and school after which he stated that: "I commit myself to work with the international community in raising the money needed to assist the refugees". The Secretary-General will be visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, on 23 March 1998, where he will meet with President Arafat and other Palestinian officials. The Secretary-General’s trip also includes visits to Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
  • The Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People: On 24-25 February 1998, the Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People convened in Brussels, Belgium with the participation of President Yasser Arafat and the Foreign Minister of Belgium, Mr. Erik Derycke. The Conference was chaired by Ambassador Ibra Deguene Ka of Senegal and was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in coordination with the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States. The Conference was also attended by the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Hennadiy Udovenko, the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mr. Ezzedine Laraki, and the Vice President of Colombia, Mr. Carlos Lemos Simmondos, on behalf of the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement. Many leaders also sent special envoys and messages on their behalf. Attendance at the Conference included a large number of Member States, as well as the participation of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which after the Conference organized a one-day symposium for the European NGOs concerned with the question of Palestine. The convening of the Conference in Brussels and the interest shown by the Belgian Government represent yet another indication of positive developments with regard to the position of Belgium and the European countries in general vis--vis the question of Palestine and regarding cooperation with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
  • Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented his report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 16 March 1998. The rapporteur, Mr. Hannu Halinen, was barred by Israel from visiting the occupied territory, but was received by Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials in the territory under its jurisdiction. In his report, the special rapporteur notes "possibly the single most preoccupying factor which has exacerbated the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories is the increased construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and bypass roads." The report explains many Israeli violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, but also deals with some violations by the PNA in one section. Although this is an important matter that must be seriously dealt with, it is a departure from the mandate given to the special rapporteur by the Commission. The Commission requested the rapporteur to investigate human rights violations by Israel, the occupying Power, applying in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.