Highlights 

  • Ministers Meet in New York: In late September, the traditional ministerial-level meetings of the Arab Group, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77 (G77) were held parallel to the general debate of the General Assembly, marking the start of the 52nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. With foreign ministers present, all four groups adopted strong positions in support of the Palestinian cause and the U.N. work in this regard.

The meeting of NAM was chaired by President Samper of Colombia and concluded with the adoption of a substantial communique. The ministers expressed, inter alia, their deep concern over the serious deterioration of the Middle East peace process and the increased tension in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and in the region as a whole as a result of the policies and actions of the current Israeli government. The ministers also expressed their support for the recommendation contained in resolution ES-10/3 (10th Emergency Special Session) to convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect. They also agreed that the Israeli participation in the work of the General Assembly must be in conformity with international law and that Palestinian participation should reflect recent important developments on the Palestinian scene.

  • The Middle East Peace Process: U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made her first visit to the Middle East in mid-September as part of the U.S. effort to restart to the critically endangered Middle East peace process. Secretary Albright’s trip included meetings with President Arafat and other high-level Palestinian officials. Follow up meetings were arranged in New York and Washington D.C., which resulted in the resumption of lower level peace process committee meetings to discuss the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, the opening of the Palestinian airport, the opening of a seaport in Gaza and other overdue transitional period issues. Meetings were also held between the U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, and President Arafat, as well as between President Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. None of those meetings have yet led to substantial progress and the Palestinian position remains to wait and see whether all these efforts will lead to different Israeli policies and actions.